By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Hawks | Madison Square Garden
When: Saturday | 7:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (3-5): After beating these same Hawks in Atlanta on Wednesday, the Knicks returned home and hung tough with the Rockets the next night. They were able to limit Dwight Howard and almost stole a victory in the final seconds on a near four-point play by Carmelo Anthony, but it was ultimately called off and the Knicks were forced to swallow their fifth defeat so far. It's still early in the season, but some trends have started to develop, including: Anthony and Andrea Bargnani beginning to click as the starting front court in Tyson Chandler's absence; J.R. Smith making a compelling case to remain a part of the starting lineup with his versatility; winning the turnover battle remains crucial to the Knicks' chances of winning ball games.
Atlanta (5-4): The Hawks have scored more than 100 points in every game this season, except for Wednesday's loss to the Knicks. The offense is ranked 8th in the league and their defense has crept up to 12th since we last saw these guys. They are led by an underrated duo of Jeff Teague (who is coming off a career-high 33 points in Philly on Friday) and Al Horford, one of the most well-rounded big men in the game.
The Numbers Game
It's a small sample, but the lineup of Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, Smith, Melo and Bargnani has produced a 112 offensive rating and an 85.5 defensive rating in 48 minutes on the floor together. That lineup is 26.4 points per 100 possessions better than its opponent during that time.
Matchup to Watch
Andrea Bargnani vs. Al Horford
Bargnani has begun to find his groove, not only as a scorer but as a rebounder and defender, too. Without Chandler to crowd the lane, he seems to be enjoying the space he has to work with as a stretch-5. He was stout on the block against Howard, and will have to increase that effort against Horford, who is arguably more dynamic offensively. The Hawks' center is really a special player, able to guard farther away from the basket than most bigs, in addition to being a good passer and finisher.
What to Look For
The Knicks held Atlanta to 5-for-24 shooting from three last game, a key to the victory. They will remain focused on keeping Kyle Korver (2-for-6 from behind the arc) off the three-point line, protecting the ball and forcing turnovers, and "building a wall" to prevent Teague penetration into the lane. If they can be successful in those areas, they should have a good shot to pick up the home win.