By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Hawks | Philips Arena
When: Wednesday | 8:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG NETWORK
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (2-4): The Knicks will be looking to bounce back after a loss to the Spurs on Sunday that Carmelo Anthony has vowed to forget. In their second game without Tyson Chandler, they missed his defensive presence much more than they had in their win in Charlotte, giving up 54 percent shooting to San Antonio. It was J.R. Smith's first game back in the lineup, and while his shot was rusty (1-for-9), he looked strong physically. As is the case for many of his teammates, returning to form seems to be just a matter of getting comfortable within the flow of the offense.
Atlanta (4-3): With former Spur Danny Ferry running the front office and longtime Gregg Popovich assistant Mike Budenholzer as the new head coach, the Hawks don't hide their intent to model their organization like San Antonio's. And like the Spurs, they've proven to be adept at identifying core players and surrounding them with high-level role players so far. After nine years as a Hawk, they let Josh Smith walk as a free agent this past summer, opting instead to sign Paul Millsap -- a more efficient scorer, if not quite the defender Smith is -- and veteran Elton Brand as cheaper alternatives. They haven't missed a beat despite the turnover, currently sporting a winning record and the league's fifth best offense. Millsap (18.6 points, 7.7 rebounds) and Al Horford (18.9 pts, 9.7 reb) form one of the most dynamic front court duos in the NBA, and speedy point guard Jeff Teague (10.1 assists per game) is developing into one of its premier floor generals.
The Numbers Game
For the second time in two games as the Knicks' starting power forward and center, Melo and Andrea Bargnani led the team in scoring -- and they did so efficiently. After combining for 53 points in Charlotte on 23-of-47 shooting (49 percent), they had matching lines of 16 points on 5-for-10 shooting against San Antonio.
Matchup to Watch
Iman Shumpert vs. Kyle Korver
One of the Knicks' best perimeter defenders, Shumpert could face any number of assignments against the Hawks. Atlanta leads the league in assists, and many of them go to 6-7 sharpshooter Kyle Korver. Assistant coach Jim Todd pointed out in his scouting report with Jonah Ballow that running Korver off double screens is a staple of the Hawks' offense, and chasing him requires discipline and a whole lot of energy. Shump has continued to knock down his own three-point attempts at a respectable clip, but he's also making more of an effort to attack the basket when he gets the ball this year.
What to Look For
Woodson says Stoudemire will sit out tomorrow night. Martin will play against the Hawks.— Jonah Ballow (@jonahballow) November 12, 2013
Without Stoudemire, the Knicks will rely heavily on Bargnani to give them a presence against Atlanta's big men. Kenyon Martin also figures to be a big part of Mike Woodson's rotation, as could Cole Aldrich. Expect to see a variety of small lineups, with Melo or Metta World Peace at power forward and/or two-point guard sets. The Hawks run much the same stuff that the Knicks just saw from San Antonio, so they will know what to expect. Even many of the calls are the same, so the game will come down to getting back in transition and moving the ball on offense -- both points of emphasis for the coaching staff the last few days.
UPDATE: Woodson announced at this morning's shootaround that J.R. Smith will start in place of Pablo Prigioni tonight.
#Knicks head coach Mike Woodson will start JR Smith tonight against Atlanta— Jonah Ballow (@jonahballow) November 13, 2013