Neither the New York Knicks nor the Atlanta Hawks were expected to make the playoffs this season, but they both got in and will meet in the first round. Game 1 of their series is set for Sunday evening as postseason basketball returns to Madison Square Garden for the first time since 2013.
Led by Most Improved Player finalist Julius Randle, and one of the league’s best defenses, the Knicks had their best season in nearly a decade and earned the No. 4 seed in the East. As for the Hawks, their offseason acquisitions and mid-season coaching change paid off with a second-half surge to grab the No. 5 seed in the East.
Ahead of Game 1, here’s everything you need to know:
(4) New York Knicks vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks
- Date: Sunday, May 23 | Time: 8 p.m. ET
- Location: Madison Square Garden — New York, New York
- TV: TNT
- Odds: Knicks -1.5 | O/U: 215 (via William Hill Sportsbook)
Featured Game | New York Knicks vs. Atlanta Hawks
Knicks: Going into the season, the Knicks were tied for the third-lowest win total projection by Las Vegas oddsmakers. But instead of an eighth straight trip to the lottery, they nearly doubled that 22.5-win projection and finished fourth in the East. New coach Tom Thibodeau helped build an elite defense, Julius Randle turned into an All-NBA caliber player and they put together their best season in nearly a decade. In order to keep this run going, they’ll need Randle and the defense to step up as they look to shut down a high-powered Hawks team.
Hawks: Beset by injuries, and languishing at 14-20 going into the All-Star break, the Hawks decided to fire coach Loyd Pierce and replace him with Nate McMillan. After that point, they went 27-11 to close the season, and the turnaround was enough to get them into the playoffs for the first time since 2017. A tough, defensive-minded Knicks team won’t be an easy matchup, especially for a young team making their first playoff run, but Trae Young and Co. have a real chance to make it to the second round.
The Knicks are slight 1.5-point favorites for Game 1, so Vegas sees this as a toss-up. In that case, let’s side with the Knicks since they’re at home and have the best player in the series in Julius Randle.