Coming off of a blowout loss to the Suns, the Knicks look to get back on track against their Eastern Conference rival Hawks.

For the first time since last season’s forgettable playoff series, the New York Knicks (10-9) face off against the Atlanta Hawks (11-9) at State Farm Arena. After a rocky start, the Hawks have rattled off seven-straight victories and are one of the most dangerous home teams in the NBA, with an 8-1 record.

Atlanta has one of the deepest and young, talent-rich rosters in basketball, led by Trae Young, who absolutely torched the Knicks in the playoffs last season. Young embraced the villain role last year while playing at MSG and backed up his act, averaging 29.2 points and 9.8 assists per game in the five-game series against the ‘Bockers. This season, the 23-year-old has improved his three-point percentage and has hit an astounding 46.1% of his threes in the last 10 games after an inauspicious start while seemingly adjusting to the new foul rules.

Accompanying Young in the Atlanta backcourt are sharpshooters Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kevin Huerter, and Cam Reddish, the last of which has taken a quantum leap in shooting, improving his shooting percentage by nearly 5.0% from last season and his three-point percentage over 10%, per ESPN Stats. In the frontcourt, John Collins and Clint Capela are as good of a tandem as anyone in the NBA and will give the thin frontcourt of the Knicks trouble, with Taj Gibson out and Nerlens Noel still hobbled after returning from a knee injury that he looked to re-aggravate last night.

Injury Bug

Atlanta will be without rising stars De’Andre Hunter (wrist) and Onyeka Okongwu (shoulder) tonight, while Derrick Rose is questionable with an ankle sprain. Hunter has developed into a nice two-way player and one of the better defenders on a Hawks team that isn’t great defensively. Tonight is an excellent opportunity for RJ Barrett to get things going against weak perimeter defenders in Young, Bogdanovic, and Danilo Gallinari.

In terms of Derrick Rose, there is talk that he was only kept out of last night’s for rest and he could have played if necessary, per the New York Post. Not having Rose available off of the bench is a huge loss, as he can stabilize and jump-start the offense, as we saw in last year’s playoffs, where he was arguably the Knicks’ best offensive player. As this is the second game of a back-to-back, Kemba Walker’s status is up in the air as well. With Fournier, Walker and Barrett all struggling to find a rhythm, having Rose available will go a long way in the Knicks’ quest to upend the Hawks.

Bench Please

One of the more frustrating developments of this young season for the Knicks is the timing of their substitutions and overall head-scratching in-game moves by Tom Thibodeau. Last night, we saw the starters struggle mightily in the third quarter, while the Suns ran up and down the court and had wide-open jumper after wide-open jumper. The defensively challenged (and recently offensively challenged) Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker could be major liabilities this evening against a Hawks team who has plenty of shooters and aren’t afraid to push the pace and get quick shots up. Similar to the Suns, Atlanta is a deep team that is going to press the issue throughout the game.

If Thibs gives guys like Fournier and Walker too long of a run, this can spell doom for the Knicks. We saw Immanuel Quickley provide a defensive and offensive spark last night and Obi Toppin contribute energy as well, but it was too little too late. Keep an eye out to see if Thibs has a short leash with the starting backcourt, especially if they are not on their game offensively.

Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. EST from Atlanta, broadcast on MSG Network and Bally Sports Southeast.

UPDATE: 11:52 a.m. ET.

Rose and Walker are out, along with Taj Gibson, per the NBA’s Injury Report.

 

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