The Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks begin a seven-game series this weekend at Madison Square Garden. Before tip-off, the Peachtree Hoops crew weighs in by answering five roundtable questions. In the final installment, we deliver official predictions for the series.
Brad Rowland: Hawks in 6. Without trying to jinx anything, I firmly believe New York is the best possible matchup among the (realistic) teams the Hawks could face in the first round. Make no mistake, the Knicks can win this series because they are well-coached and they defend like crazy. With that said, I think Atlanta is the better team, they have the best player in Trae Young and the Hawks are well-suited for this test. There may have been some concern about inexperience if the Hawks had to match up with an opponent that was fully established, but this Knicks team is also entering uncharted territory and, even without the benefit of home-court advantage, give me the Hawks to end the series at State Farm Arena in Game 6.
Wes Morton: Hawks in 7 for me. This will be a fascinating series to watch, as two stylistically different but similarly young and inexperienced teams clash. I think the games will be close, but the Hawks should eventually be able to crack a stout defensive unit with outside shooting and depth. While it’s usually fairly difficult for a team to win Game 7 on the road, Madison Square Garden will be operating at a lower capacity than completely full, almost certainly less than 50% at this juncture. Without the usual raucous atmosphere for a team that has seen scant recent postseason appearances — let alone success — the Hawks use their depth to ultimately pull through.
Glen Willis: Hawks in 7. I think New York has a bit of control of this series early on but the Hawks find their footing and confidence as the series progresses. I expect Derrick Rose to be a stabilizing force for theKnicks in the early going but that De’Andre Hunter increasingly mirrors a bulk of his minutes the deeper the series gets. I also think Nate McMillan finds ways to play John Collins and Danilo Gallinari together in five-out fashion which could really challenge New York’s preferred defensive schemes.
Rashad Milligan: I’m with Graham here (see below) in leaning Knicks in 7 with Derrick Rose going off in Game 7 because, Atlanta, but I’m going to say the better talent wins Game 7 and beats “the refs” as Hawks fans might describe the opponent due to physicality of a Tom Thibodeau team and the nature of postseason officiating. To clarify of the more talented team and further burying my lede: Hawks in 7.
Graham Chapple: It’s one of those where you feel it’s either Hawks in 6 or Knicks in 7 (given the homecourt, where the Hawks haven’t been as good). I’ll say Hawks in 6, because I do think the 3-0 series sweep from the Knicks wasn’t entirely reflective of how tightly contested these two sides are. I think the Hawks have better top-end depth outside of Young, offensively I think they’re more diverse and I think they’ll defend better against the Knicks in the playoffs than they did in the regular season. The Knicks, like the Hawks, haven’t been to the playoffs with their current groups so experience to an extent goes out the window but even then you have the likes of Clint Capela and Danilo Gallinari who have been here plenty of times and would have an edge on experience. The only other Knicks player who could compare would probably be Derrick Rose? It’s all a bit of a reach because it is that close but I think the Hawks are the better team. Just.
Ryan Kerley: Everybody predicting the Hawks to win this series makes me want to flip my prediction to New York, but I have Atlanta in 6 games. Neither of these teams have great playoff experience. The Hawks played well to end the season, and this roster is finally starting to come together. I think the Hawks depth is better and they are a more versatile offensive team. The Hawks are just a little bit better.
Malik Brown: Hawks in 6. If it’s coming down to who has the better team/players, I would have to go with the Hawks. Yes, I know the Knicks swept the season series against the Hawks, but I believe the Hawks showed in each one of those games that they were capable of winning. The first two games were coached under Llyod Pierce, in which they blew a 15-point lead in the first game, and Young and Collins disappeared down the stretch in the second game. The Hawks had total control of the third game, but Young went down in the third quarter. At the end of the day, I think the Hawks offensive power will be too much for the Knicks, and the Knicks don’t have much on offense to counter.
Andrew Kelly: Hawks in 7. The Hawks don’t really have a good option for Randle and I’m not sure they’ll find one. It’s also the first playoff series for some key players, especially Trae. But ultimately, they’re a deeper, more talented team. I think in the end their offensive firepower wins out.
Josh Lane: I will say the Hawks in 7 mainly because I do not trust and believe in the Knicks 3 point shooting during the regular season sweep. Also, the Knicks are a young team along with the Hawks. The good news with that is that there will be no experience advantage with the Knicks. Oh yeah and if that De’Andre Hunter guy is close to being what he was earlier this season, this will be a large boost for Atlanta.
Zach Hood: Hawks in 7. Game 7 on the road will be tough, but as others have outlined, Atlanta could have the depth advantage. New York cools off from three at some point in this series and the Hawks take advantage.