After a 4-1 start, the Atlanta Hawks suffered their first true disappointment of the 2020-21 season on Saturday evening. The Hawks led by as many as 15 points in the second half before faltering in a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers but, on Monday, Atlanta will have the opportunity to bounce back against the New York Knicks.
Even with the implosion on Saturday, the Hawks rate as one of the most dynamic offensive teams in the NBA through six games. Like the Cavs, however, the Knicks are an improved defensive bunch in comparison to previous years, and New York currently ranks as a top-eight defense on a per-possession basis. That likely isn’t sustainable at that level, but the Knicks are playing better basketball on the whole, as evidenced by a 3-3 record.
With that said, New York’s offense is not explosive, scoring only 1.03 points per possession. That includes a ghastly 18.1 percent turnover rate and, if the Hawks can create havoc, that could spur Atlanta’s offensive attack in transition.
From an injury standpoint, the Hawks continue to be short-handed in this matchup. Danilo Gallinari will miss at least two weeks with an ankle issue, and the trio of Kris Dunn (ankle), Onyeka Okongwu (foot) and Tony Snell (foot) remains sidelined.
Beyond that, Kevin Huerter (left ankle impingement) is listed as questionable after leaving Saturday’s game in the fourth quarter, and Rajon Rondo (left knee soreness) is doubtful. Huerter’s status will be crucial to monitor, in part because Atlanta would be down to 11 available players — including both Two-Way options — if he cannot take the floor.
For the Knicks, Kevin Knox II (sore left knee, bruised right hand) is probable, with Alec Burks (sprained left ankle) listed as questionable, and both Dennis Smith Jr. (contused left quad) and former Hawks big man Omari Spellman (sore right knee) listed as doubtful. Frank Ntilikina (sprained right knee) and Obi Toppin (strained right calf) are out.
Even with a depleted roster due to injuries, the Hawks will enter this game as betting favorites and the expectation should be a win at home. Atlanta will need to play at a higher level than Saturday, however, and the Knicks could threaten if the Hawks don’t play well.
Stay tuned throughout the day for all the latest.
Game Date/Time: Monday, Jan. 4, 7:30 pm ET
Location: State Farm Arena
TV: Fox Sports Southeast
Radio: 92.9 The Game (Atlanta); Hawks Radio Network
Streaming: Fox Sports Go; NBA League Pass (out of market)