New York vs Atlanta: Round 1, Free Picks, Odds & Predictions

New York Knicks vs Atlanta Hawks - 2021 NBA Playoffs Round 1
New York vs. Atlanta, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, May 23, Madison Square Garden

The New York Knicks are back in the NBA playoffs for the first time in eight years as they battle with the Atlanta Hawks in the opening round. It’s been four years since the Hawks have played in the postseason and the roster has been completely retooled since the end of a 10-year run of playoffs appearances. These two teams had identical 41-31 records this season, but it was the Knicks who came out on top in all three games between the teams this season.

Game 1

May 23, 7 p.m., Madison Square Garden

It’s been a long time since the NBA playoffs were featured at Madison Square Garden, but for the first time in eight seasons, postseason basketball is back in the World’s Most Famous Arena. The New York Knicks have a winning record for the first time since that 2012-13 season and they will battle the Atlanta Hawks, returning to the playoffs for the first time in four years, in the first round. This is an intriguing battle that features two young stars who still have been in the league for a little bit. Trae Young is only 22 years old but in his third year in the league while Julius Randle is entering his prime in his seventh year in the NBA at only 26 years old. They are the focal points of this series, but certainly far from the only important pieces in the equation.

Young has a little more help around him in Atlanta with nine different players averaging at least 10 points per game, eight of whom are healthy for the start of the series. Obviously most of the spotlight falls on Young and his 25 points and 9.4 assists per game, but John Collins and Clint Capela deserve just as much credit for Atlanta’s success this season. Collins has taken a step back statistically from the past two seasons, but that has to do with how the Hawks have evolved around him and he isn’t required to do as much heavy lifting. He still averaged 17.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, but he’s complemented now by players like Capela, who is averaging 15.2 points and a career-best 14.3 rebounds per game in his first season in Atlanta. Capela actually led the NBA this season in rebounds per game by dominating the offensive glass, where he also led the league with 297 rebounds off Atlanta misses. The Hawks won seven of their final eight games, so they enter the playoffs with plenty of momentum, especially on offense after averaging 122 points per game in that stretch.

Of course, the Knicks didn’t limp into the postseason and won 16 of their last 20 games during the regular season, excelling on defense during that stretch. New York led the league in points allowed per game this season at less than 105 per game, and they held half of their final 20 opponents under 105 points per game. The defensive excellence is a hallmark of a Tom Thibodeau-coached team, but Randle and R.J. Barrett give the Knicks plenty of offense as well. Randle is averaging a career high in points (24.1), assists (6.0) and rebounds (10.2) per game, and he’s been a major catalyst for the turnaround of this franchise in the last year. Barrett seems to be very comfortable in his second year in the league as he is averaging 17.6 points per game and making marked improvements all over the floor. Yet it might be the reunion of Thibodeau with Derrick Rose that has made the biggest impact on this team this season. Rose has not been the same player since getting hurt in Chicago, and we’ve seen the flashes of talent periodically, but it hasn’t been this consistent in a long time. In addition to being the team’s third-leading scorer at nearly 15 points per game, Rose is averaging more than four assists per game in nearly 27 minutes since arriving from Detroit in a trade in February.

I am trying to figure out how the Hawks are favored in this series at most of the top sports betting sites in New Jersey. Atlanta didn’t finish the season any stronger than New York did, and you cannot convince me that Madison Square Garden isn’t going to be loud and energetic with fans back in the seats. This is a talented – and yes, somewhat flawed – Knicks team that is young and hungry for success in the postseason. Most importantly, New York can play excellent defense, and that is an important factor in determining playoff success. This series is going to go at least six games, so I’ll start by betting on the series being six games at +200 odds and seven games at the identical +200 odds. But I do think the Knicks are going to win the series, so I’ll double up by betting New York in six games at +550 odds and the Knicks to win in seven games at +475 odds on the New Jersey basketball betting sites.

As much as I think the Knicks are going to win the series, I am twice as confident in picking New York to win Game 1 at home Sunday. New York is a slim 1.5-point favorite according to the top NBA betting sites in New Jersey, which makes sense given how evenly-matched these two teams seem to be on paper. Yet I keep flashing back to the three games Atlanta played against the Knicks this season and how much Randle just dominated those games. Randle had three 40-point performances this season and two of them came against the Hawks while dropping 28 points in the other meeting. So I’m betting on Randle to score at least 30 points in a victorious NBA playoffs debut at +330 odds, and those bold enough to dream a little higher, you can bet on Randle to score at least 35 points in a win for +750 odds. As for the game itself, though, I’m betting the Knicks laying 5.5 points for +165 odds.

BET ON NEW YORK KNICKS TO WIN

Game 2

May 26, 7:30 p.m., Madison Square Garden

 

 

Game 3

May 28, 7 p.m., State Farm Arena

 

 

Game 4

May 30, 1 p.m., State Farm Arena

 

 

Game 5

June 2, TBD, Madison Square Garden

 

Game 6

June 4, TBD, State Farm Arena

 

 

Game 7

June 6, TBD, Madison Square Garden

 

 

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Josh Walfish is an award-winning journalist who has been covering college and professional sports in the United States. He holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University and his work has appeared in the Miami Herald, Chicago Sun-Times and Providence Journal. He most recently chronicled the UMass hockey teams rise to prominence over the last two years for the local newspaper

All Reviews by Josh Walfish

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