The Knicks are playing winning basketball. They’ll look to continue their winning ways against Trae Young and the Hawks on Monday.
The New York Knicks (3-3) faithful has to be pleased with their team’s performance to begin this new season. The orange and blue are a respectable .500 coming off a thrilling win against a hot Indiana Pacers squad.
Defense won the game for New York—they managed to string together stops when it mattered most. Tom Thibodeau is changing the culture of the Knicks before our very eyes. Julius Randle, not exactly known as a lockdown defender, let out an energizing roar after clamping up All-Star Domantas Sabonis late in the fourth. This moment symbolized the impact of Thibodeau’s defensive prioritization, which has rubbed off on the entire roster.
The Knicks will aspire to carry their defensive performance into Monday’s outing against the 4-2 Atlanta Hawks, led by a generational perimeter scorer and playmaker in Trae Young. Atlanta now has a formidable supporting cast surrounding their superstar in the making, which has allowed the Hawks to get off to a hot start.
De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish, two second-year players, appear to have improved leaps and bounds from the year prior. The pair of two-way wings have the potential to evolve into stars in due time. The Hawks added several quality veterans via free agency, such as Bogdan Bogdanovic, Rajon Rondo, and Danilo Gallinari (who won’t suit up on Monday). And who could forget John Collins, the double-double machine capable of scoring from both the inside and out? Throw in an elite rim-protector and finisher above the rim in Clint Capela, and the Hawks have the recipe for a playoff team.
Here are some of the most prevalent storylines for the Knicks, who are just hours away from their showdown with the Hawks in Atlanta.
Austin Rivers is a winner
New York wouldn’t have been able to come away with the victory against Indiana if not for the all-around performance from Austin Rivers. When the second unit’s offense became stagnant, Rivers bailed them out with big-time shots. He managed to drop 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting, including 3-for-6 from beyond the arc.
We have decided to STAN Austin Rivers pic.twitter.com/XvZPrtKrQ3
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) January 3, 2021
Rivers showed off an extensive offensive repertoire, which included nailing threes off the catch and off the dribble, as well as knifing his way through the teeth of the defense via dribble penetration. Being without Alec Burks, the reserves for New York lacked significant shot creation ability.
Rivers filled the hole of Burks’ absence. In a nail-biter outing that was decided by a mere few possessions, every point from Rivers was necessary to squeak by with the win. Alec Burks is questionable to return Monday, but if he isn’t up to playing, the Knicks will need a scoring punch off the pine from Rivers once again. This Hawks team is no pushover. Their offense is lethal, and if the Knicks’ bench struggles to put up points, it will be exceedingly difficult to beat such a formidable opponent.
Regardless of whether Burks can suit up or not, Rivers should be gifted significant run time after his standout performance Saturday. New York would be wise to place Rivers on Trae Young, as he’s the best perimeter defender at the floor general spot. Hopefully, Rivers can use his physicality to harass Young on the perimeter and make life tough for him. Rivers is keen on turning things around for this organization, he said so himself. The Knicks are fortunate to have him on their side.
Immanuel Quickley breakout game?
The Knicks’ thin point-guard rotation is even thinner, with Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr. projected to sit out with injuries. With Elfrid Payton as the only other true point guard expected to play, Immanuel Quickley should see the floor more than usual. After sitting out a few games earlier last week with a hip impingement, Quickley made his return against the Pacers and produced in limited minutes.
Injury Report 1/4 at ATL: Probable: Knox II (sore left knee, bruised right hand); Questionable: Burks (sprained left ankle); Doubtful: Smith Jr (contused left quad) & Spellman (sore right knee); Out: Ntilikina (sprained right knee) & Toppin (strained right calf)
— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) January 3, 2021
Quickley didn’t wow with his playmaking, but he managed to score nine points in 15 minutes thanks to his patented floater, which appears to be a valuable component in his bag of tricks. He can get the shot off without having to worry about getting swatted due to the high-arcing nature of the floater. With Quickley’s deadly combination of speed and craftiness, he can put pressure on the rim at will.
Quickley is averaging 13.5 minutes of action this season. Expect him to exceed this number during Monday’s contest. Scoring in the triple digits will be necessary for New York to keep up with the high-scoring Hawks. Allowing Quickley to run the show for around 20-25 minutes will give New York their best chance at winning.
Fate has granted Quickley his best shot thus far at putting together a noteworthy performance. Knicks fans should anticipate a thrilling point-guard duel between Young and Quickley, even if the two don’t see the floor at the same time.