By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Hawks | Madison Square Garden
When: Sunday | 6:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG Networks
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York: The return of point guard Raymond Felton to the starting lineup was supposed to put everything back into place and return the Knicks to their high-scoring ways of earlier in the season, but that would have to wait for another day. On Saturday night in Philly, Sixers All-Star Jrue Holiday was the headliner, carving up the Knicks for 35 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds. The Knicks tried different defenders and schemes on him, but nothing seemed to work. On offense, they saw a lot of clean looks and for the most part, spacing was good. Shots just weren't falling, particularly from three (4-for-27).
Atlanta: The Hawks enter their first meeting with the Knicks looking much different than the team with which we had become very familiar over the past few seasons, but despite the changes, they remain a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference at 25-18. Gone is former franchise player Joe Johnson, but familiar faces Josh Smith and Al Horford lead a talented group that leans more heavily on young point guard Jeff Teague and has added scoring punch in the form of Lou Williams and Kyle Korver.
Last Time Out
New York: The Knicks struggled to their second-worst defeat of the season against the Sixers, 97-80.
Atlanta: The Hawks won a double-overtime thriller against the Celtics on Friday, 123-111.
The Numbers Game
Perhaps the lone bright spot for the Knicks, Amar'e Stoudemire registered his best game of the season, scoring 20 points in 27 minutes on 8-13 shooting.
Match-up to Watch
Carmelo Anthony vs. Josh Smith
Anthony, who has been wildly successful this season playing power forward, goes up against one of the original hybrid forwards in Smith. The two are leaders for their respective teams, but they make their impact felt in different ways. Smith is a dynamic defender, regularly among the league leaders in blocks and steals and a big part of why the Hawks rank 6th in the league in defensive efficiency. Unlike Melo, however, he is not a shooter, and is most effective when he gets to the rim. Anthony could struggle to create in isolation situations, so it bears watching how the Knicks work to get him the ball in position to score.
What to Look For
It shouldn't come as a surprise that the Knicks struggled some considering the fact that their starting lineup had never played in a game together until Saturday night. Even with that being the case, they were able to move the ball at times and generally had good floor spacing. With his roster almost completely healthy, it will be interesting to see how Mike Woodson handles his rotation. Starters Felton, Jason Kidd and Iman Shumpert combined to shoot 2-for-17 on Saturday and Stoudemire's inspired play off the bench could force his hand. The Hawks feature six rotation players that shoot 37% or better from three, so defending the perimeter will be crucial.