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What it will take for the Hawks to beat the Knicks in their first-round series

Atlanta turned its season around under Nate McMillan and now meets the Knicks in the postseason.

Houston Rockets v Atlanta Hawks
Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks moves the ball against the Houston Rockets on May 16, 2021 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.
Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

The No. 5 seed Atlanta Hawks have made the postseason in Year 4 of their rebuild and will meet the No. 4 seed New York Knicks in the first round. The Hawks were a consistent playoff presence for a decade, but only made the Eastern conference finals once. Atlanta will hope this group has a higher ceiling and this series will be the first step to proving that.

Hawks keys to victory

Trae Young has every reason to believe he is the best player in the series, but needs to snap out of his current shooting slump from downtown. The Hawks have the ninth-most efficient offense in the league and they could’ve ranked higher if McMillan was coaching the entire season. This is a deadly group on that end of the floor, especially if Young gets going.

John Collins and Clint Capela will have to take advantage of the Knicks missing Mitchell Robinson in the paint. Both players are strong rebounders and should be able to give the Hawks plenty of extra possessions. Collins has emerged as a perimeter threat over the last two seasons, but this series will give him a chance to increase his volume from behind the arc. If he can space the floor well, it’ll further open up New York’s defense.

Hawks vs. Knicks series odds

Hawks: -121
Knicks: +100

The Hawks have gained some momentum on this front and are considered favorites in the series, but this is still a close contest. The Knicks have home-court advantage and will be allowing 13,000 fans at home games, which is the highest in the postseason. Atlanta will have to take at least one game at MSG to win the series. They’re 16-20 on the road this season.

NBA Championship odds

Hawks: +10000
Knicks: +10000

These teams are massive underdogs to lift the NBA title, but this series is about building the foundation for future playoff runs. The Knicks and Hawks feature predominantly young, homegrown cores. Both teams will have salary cap space to make impactful additions to the roster and these playoffs can only help their respective efforts.

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