The Knicks have a real opportunity to go on a run before the All-Star break, but that means taking down Trae Young and the Hawks in Atlanta.

It’s always a home game when the Knicks visit Atlanta.

The New York Knicks (17-36) have yet to face defeat in the month of February, winners of their last four, and are, miraculously, just five games out of the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed.

Up next are the Atlanta Hawks (14-39), led by All-Star Trae Young, who presents a potentially potent offensive adversary for the Knicks. Last night in Detroit was an ugly win. If New York comes out cold and sloppy this time, it could be an insurmountable deficit.

Unleash Robinson

Mitchell Robinson was a game changer in Detroit. In the third quarter alone Robinson had four blocks. In the fourth quarter he secured a crucial offensive rebound that would lead to Julius Randle sealing the game.

The trade deadline has passed. There is no more showcasing to hide behind, it’s time to play the best young player on the roster. Mike Miller went with Robinson down the stretch alongside Randle, and it worked.

Miller may not want to shuffle the starting lineup in the midst of a win streak, but Robinson’s minutes should not be so evenly distributed with Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis, especially during the crucial moments.

Get the Headband

R.J. Barrett is probably dying to get back on the court and forget Saturday night never happened. Barrett’s only contribution was a pair of nice pocket passes, other than that he was nonexistent. He shot 1-for-8 from the field, and only went to the free throw line once.

It could be the rust from missing nine games, this ankle sprain was the first injury of Barrett’s career, but I think it’s the headband. When he has the headband on, Barrett is 45.5% from the floor, 58.5% from three, and 75.0% from the free throw line.

Guard Rotation

Miller’s guard rotation continues to be sporadic to say the least. Elfrid Payton and Barrett are the only guards with solidified minutes. The others have been subject to a musical chairs method of minute distribution.

Damyean Dotson was the flavor of the week while Barrett is out, and now it appears Wayne Ellington has found himself back in the rotation. Ellington was good last night, scoring a team-high 17 points (tied with Randle), on 50.0% shooting.

Many believed Ellington to be a buyout candidate, and this could be one final showcase for the vet, but it feels more like Miller is trying to make a run. He has dialed back on Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr. minutes when the games have tightened up, relying on Payton. The same could now happen with Dotson, who showed promise in Barrett’s absence, losing minutes to the veteran Ellington.

Injury Report

  • Allonzo Trier is the only player listed, and remains day-to-day. Trier did not travel with the team to Detroit.
  • Hawks newest addition in former Houston Rockets center Clint Capela should be out again tonight against the Knicks as he nurses a heel injury.
  • And finally, newest Knick Maurice Harkless, the forward acquired for Marcus Morris from the Los Angeles Clippers, should make his debut on Sunday after being a healthy scratch last night in the Motor City.

Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. ET from Atlanta.

UPDATE: 11:20 a.m. ET.

Harkless will not make his debut, the team announced he’s “doubtful” with an illness.

 

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