Hawks Projected Starting Line-up:
PG: Jeff Teague
SG: Kirk Hinrich
SF: Joe Johnson
PF: Josh Smith
C: Zaza Pachulia
The New York Knicks will be looking for their fourth consecutive victory and this one will feel a little more special since it is coming against coach Mike Woodson’s former team. Woodson coached the Hawks for six seasons, but he is now running the sidelines for the Knicks and is doing a great job.
Under Woodson the Knicks have improved on both ends of the court and their defensive has miraculously changed. However, New York will need something extra tonight as both Jeremy Lin and Amar’e Stoudemire are out of the lineup with injuries.
Frontcourt: The Hawks have a well balanced front court with their two stars at the forward spots. Joe Johnson is one of the most underrated players in the NBA and is an absolute killer in the final minutes of games. Johnson excels in isolation play and can easily beat any of the Knicks’ defenders. His perimeter game is impeccable and with Al Horford out for the season with an injury, Johnson has stepped up his game. This season, he has been averaging 19 points a game. The Hawks also have the athletic Josh Smith in the frontcourt, someone who can dominate the game on the defensive end. Smith has the ability to block shots and his vertical leap is something no one on the Knicks can match. Smith is the defensive anchor for the team and his 1.9 blocks and 1.5 steals per game are very valuable. Atlanta also has Zaza Pachulia, a player who does not score a lot of points but can grab rebounds and draw fouls. The Knicks do not need to worry about Pachulia scoring points, but they must pay attention to him on the glass.
Backcourt: The Hawks have two great guards in the backcourt, with the main player being Jeff Teague. Teague has redefined his career this season and is emerging as the Hawks’ second best offensive option. He can dictate the flow of the game and his speed will be something Baron Davis needs to worry about. Tegue can get to the basket at will and can hurt the Knicks in the paint. As for Kirk Hinrich, his three-point shooting is a great boon and he provides great minutes for the coaching staff.
Keys to Victory:
1. Don’t fall in love with isolation play-The Atlanta Hawks are amazing in terms of isolation play and can kill the Knicks in that style of play. If New York has the same offensive set as the Hawks, there is not way its players can match the explosiveness of the Hawks.
2- Contain Jeff Teague- As noted before, Jeff Teague has the ability to dissect the defensive and he can singe-handedly beat the Knicks. New York must make sure he does not have a big night on its older guards or else the game will be a blow-out early.