Hawks Close Out Knicks, Will Face 76ers In Second Round
The Atlanta Hawks have won their first-round series against the New York Knicks with a 103-89 victory on Wednesday. They’ll advance to face off against the Philadelphia 76ers, with Game 1 coming on Sunday in Philadelphia.
The Hawks dominated this series against the Knicks from start to finish, with Trae Young looking like a blossoming star. Young had 36 points and nine assists, while teammate and resident trash talker Clint Capela had 14 points and 15 rebounds in the Game 5 victory. Young averaged 29.2 points and 9.8 assists throughout the series. He controlled this series similarly to the way the player he was traded for, Luka Doncic, is controlling his series in the Western Conference. Head coach Nate McMillan knew Young was capable of this. “I texted him before the playoffs started and told him he’s built for this time of the season with the confidence he brings to the floor, his skill level for scoring the basketball and creating opportunities. It’s really tough to game plan against him,” McMillan said.
The Hawks have been on quite the run since they implemented McMillan as head coach, with a 27-11 regular season record under him, and now a playoff series win. The attention now shifts to the 76ers, the number one seed in the East and the team to beat. How do the Hawks match up? Pretty well, all things considered. The 76ers’ best player, Joel Embiid, is dealing with a small meniscus tear in his right knee. He’ll certainly be impacted by this injury during this series, and is being listed as day-to-day, meaning he potentially won’t start or play in Game 1. This obviously favors the Hawks, as in the two previous wins the 76ers have against the Hawks, Embiid was plus 26 in just under 50 minutes of play. Atlanta has not solved Embiid yet, so him being limited or not on the floor at all would be a big bonus.
Speaking of defense, ensuring Young isn’t picked on will be very important. The Knicks didn’t have the offensive weapons to accomplish this goal, but the 76ers certainly do. Making sure he isn’t switched on to the bigger Ben Simmons or Tobias Harris is vital, and making sure he isn’t forced to guard Seth Curry on the perimeter will be important as well. Young’s best match up would be chasing Danny Green, or simply switching with other perimeter players so he’s always away from the action. The Hawks could afford lapses against the Knicks, but they can’t afford those same lapses against the top-seeded Sixers.
As for the other starters, Bogan Bogdanovic will start at the two, Deandre Hunter at the three, John Collins at the four and Capela at the five. For Bogdanovic, being able to guard Curry will be paramount to the Hawks’ success. He’ll need to provide secondary creation and three point shooting as well. He averaged 14.4 points, as well as 4 assists per game in the series against the Knicks. A similar stat line in this one would be perfect. Hunter will likely garner the assignment of Simmons, which is seemingly going to be a difficult one. He’ll need to keep his stellar defense up in this series. He’s seemingly growing into a better offensive player as well, as he averaged 15 points per game in his 23 games this year.
The defense will be keyed on Young, so the surrounding Hawks have to step up. Collins and Capela against the 76ers’ front court is a crucial match up as well. They can’t allow easy buckets in the paint, and Collins must slow down the attack of Harris, who has been on a tear this season and seemingly always plays well for coach Doc Rivers. The Hawks could really upset the 76ers here if some matchups go their way and they get a little lucky.