New York Knicks vs. Atlanta Hawks: 3 matchups that will decide the series

Trae Young, New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Trae Young, New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /
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New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks
Trae Young, New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

New York Knicks vs. Atlanta Hawks: NY has to slow down not just 1, but 2 terrific guards

Trae Young is the franchise player. His success is directly tied to the Atlanta Hawks’ success.

One of the best long-range shooting point guards in the NBA, Young has actually been taking fewer threes per game under Nate McMillan. The young point guard has been looking to attack the rim, and he has the shiftiness to get by players 1-on-1. He’s a scorer and a facilitator.

This isn’t as obvious as “slow down the Atlanta Hawks’ best player”, because it’s not just Trae Young that’s been lethal this year. It’s the combination of Trae Young and Bogdan Bogdanović on the court together that has been taken ATL to another level.

With Trae Young, I’m sure New York will do plenty of overloading on his side of the court. Thibodeau and his team have played ice coverages throughout the season, where they defend pick and rolls by forcing the ball-handlers to the side where they’re squeezed into running into the Nerlens’ Wall.

It’s exhausting to play against, especially when you rotate as well as New York does. The thing is, the Hawks have shown they can beat those overloads.

It starts with Trae Young’s passing – he’s able to make high-level cross-court whip passes. His backcourt mate, Bogdanović, has an incredibly quick release. The rotating defender has to get up in Bogdanović’s face ASAP.

Even the Hawks’ other shooters: Snell, Huerter, Hunter, and Collins are able to consistently get good looks as a result of their backcourt passing.

The on-court chemistry between Young and Bogdanović has been fantastic. We’ve seen coach McMillan give plenty of ball-handling duties to Bogdanović. McMillan has allowed him to blossom into a secondary facilitator and it’s not only taken some pressure off of Young but it’s also allowed him to not have to create his own shot 100% of the time. Defenses can’t just completely zero in on Young.

New York will continue to throw pressure Trae Young’s way, and while I do think NY can slow down his scoring, he can carve them up with the aforementioned passing – he had 14 assists in 30 minutes in their last meeting.

When you look at the Knicks’ roster, there aren’t many perimeter defenders with “elite” reputations. Still, they’ve consistently been one of the best defensive teams in the league. The Knicks allow the lowest 3-point percentage to their opponents – which is again, a testament to how well they rotate on defense.

The New York Knicks will throw a variety of looks Trae Young’s way, whether it be one of their point guards Elfrid Payton, Frank Ntilikina, or Derrick Rose, or their best perimeter defender, Reggie Bullock, who has spent some time defending Young this season. That means RJ Barrett will be tasked with defending Bogdanović, which will be an enormous task for the 20-year-old.

The Young-Bogdanović backcourt has been the engine of the Atlanta Hawks.

The engine for the New York Knicks has been their 6’8 point-linebacker.