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 (6-16): The Knicks return home following a frustrating loss in Boston last night. After storming back from a 17-point first-half deficit, they led by 11 points with 10 minutes to go in the game, but their offense ground to a halt as the Celtics stormed back and stole the victory. Twenty of Carmelo Anthony' 26 points came before halftime, and the Knicks' guards continued their shooting struggles, with J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert combining for five points in 49 minutes. Perhaps the biggest loss of the game came when Kenyon Martin had to exit early in the fourth quarter with an abdominal injury, leaving the Knicks even more depleted along the front line.
Atlanta (12-11): As one of only three teams with a record over .500, the Hawks are holding strong as the third seed in the Eastern Conference in the season ended today. They've won three of their last four games. Not a powerhouse by any means, new coach Mike Budenholzer's team plays sound, fundamental basketball; Atlanta ranks 11th in defensive efficiency and 18th on offense. Everything starts with point guard Jeff Teague and versatile big man Al Horford, with high-level support from offseason acquisition Paul Milsap and sharpshooter Kyle Korver.
The Numbers Game
Korver comes to Madison Square Garden tonight riding an NBA-record streak of 92 straight games with a made 3-pointer.
Matchup to Watch
J.R. Smith vs. Lou Williams
Two of the premier sixth men throughout their careers, both Smith and Williams are working back from injuries and trying to reestablish themselves as viable go-to options off the bench. It's been an up-and-down process for these two so far this season. Smith notched six rebounds and three assists in 26 minutes last night, opting to let the game come to him and get his teammates involved. He didn't attempt a shot until the fourth quarter. Williams is shooting 37 percent from the field, but remains a threat from three. Both clearly have the potential to be big factors in their teams' success, and are worth keeping an eye on tonight.
What to Look For
Knicks fans will be looking for their team to respond at home after a disappointing loss in Boston. If Martin can't go, Coach Woodson will be forced to tinker with his rotation once again, perhaps inserting Metta World Peace into the starting lineup, as he has recently. Amar'e Stoudemire, coming off a season-high 18-point performance in 30 minutes, said the medical staff may rest him tonight as a precautionary measure, so that could further impact the big man rotation.