Hawks Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Jeff Teague
SG: Kirk Hinrich
SF: Joe Johnson
PF: Josh Smith
C: Jason Collins
The New York Knicks will head to Atlanta today to face the Hawks in a must-win game. The Knicks are tied with the Philadelphia 76ers for the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference and need this win to go up .5 games. The Knicks had a poor performance against the Cleveland Cavaliers and need this game to bounce back.
This is also the return of Knicks coach Mike Woodson, who coached the Atlanta Hawks before coming to New York.
The Atlanta Hawks have a very athletic and explosive frontcourt anchored by Joe Johnson and Josh Smith. Johnson is the go-to man for the Hawks and the leader of this team. The Hawks rely on their All-Star to close out games and he can hurt the Knicks with his shooting. Johnson can catch fire easily and should be the center of the defensive attack. This season, Johnson is averaging 18.7 points and 3.9 assists per game. There is also the high-flying, athletic Josh Smith. Smith can play nearly every position and is slowly becoming a leader on this team. His jumping ability allows him to dominate the paint and crash the glass. In the 2011-12 season, Smith has averaged 18.8 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. As for Jason Collins, he does not offer the Hawks much on the defensive end and is just used as a body in the paint.
The Hawks’ backcourt is quick and explosive and has two guards with great skill. Jeff Teague has had a breakout season and can operate the offense very well. Teague can use his quickness and speed to attack the basket and has a penchant of scoring near the hoop. The Knicks must keep Teague in check or else he will burn the team’s guards. As for Hinrich, he is not as athletic as Teague, but he can shoot the lights out and can hurt the Knicks from behind the arc.
Keys to Victory:
1- Play with pride- The Knicks were embarrassed in Cleveland and did not come out with any energy. Many people have this team winning some games in the opening round, and they have to prove themselves today after losing to the lowly Cavs.
2- Live in the paint- Although the Hawks are athletic and young, they aren’t very big down low. The Knicks have the size advantage in this game and they must exploit that today.