Hawks vs. Knicks NBA Playoffs Series Bets: Atlanta is the Play, But Wait for the Right Price
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured from left: New York Knicks Forward Julius Randle #30 and Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young #11.
A look at the Hawks vs. Knicks NBA Playoffs series entering Game 2, and where to find betting value:
Before the Series Began
My precept coming into this series was that it was a coin-flip series and likely to go long. Taking a 2-point win from the Hawks on a buzzer-beater by Trae Young as a reason to go the other way would be foolish.
You have to remember that after one game, there are always worrying trends for the team that lost and promising trends for the team that won.
The sample size problem is real — not just in trying to find meaning, but that the samples are tiny but matter a lot.
Let me give you an example.
The Hawks and Knicks finished Game 1 tied during the time span when Trae Young was on the floor. But, if you add John Collins to that equation, the Hawks outscored the Knicks by five points with Young and Collins together. Add Bogdan Bogdanovic to that pair, and the Hawks outscored New York by 17. That's a blowout.
The Knicks can win the series if they get outscored with Young on the floor. But, they can't win if they get outscored by 17 points with Collins, Bogdanovic and Young on the floor. That's 31 minutes per game that they'd be trying to make up for in the remaining 17. That's not doable.
When to Bet the Knicks Live
Collins was sneaky good in Game 1. His ability to make defensive reads while being a plus-offensive player is key. Watch how he interrupts this lob, which leads to a Bogdanovic 3:
An important thing for live-bettors to watch is Collins' foul trouble. Collins finished with just one foul, Clint Capela with none in Game 1. Particularly if Collins is limited in Game 2 due to foul trouble, that's a good spot to buy the Knicks live.
Diagnosing New York's Issues on Defense
The Knicks' big adjustment is going to have to be, predictably, on Trae Young. Nerlens Noel suffered an injury late in Game 1 and may not play. That is a problem, because Noel is the Knicks' only viable center with Mitchell Robinson out for the year.
However … Noel was pretty bad before the injury.
The Knicks want to apply pressure on Young to get the ball out of his hands. Young's a phenomenal passer, but he resists being put into one role. He wants to score and score and score and then pass on his terms. The Knicks simply did not do a good enough job of containing him, and Noel was a big part of that:
New York used Taj Gibson as a small-ball center in spots, and Gibson played great. But, Julius Randle is the player who has to be better on both ends. Randle struggled from the field in Game 1 despite getting some good looks. That will probably change. Still, he must attack in pick and roll situations, and if Noel is unavailable, then he'll have to be the one applying pressure on Young.
The Knicks really struggled with double-drag screens. In the clip below, Randle doesn't commit to hedging out Young, trying to contain on the lob. But Nerlens Noel doesn't step up either. Once Young is going downhill, he's got you, especially given how good his teardrop floater is.
This is key, though: These defensive deficiencies are correctable. New York can play better defense in these screen-and-roll actions and make it tougher on Young. The Knicks have the firepower to hang in this series as long as they make things tough for Young, whose point guard instincts in terms of balancing the offense are still incomplete.
Ultimately, this means that the Knicks will likely get back in this series. But for now, let's revisit my opening discussion on those Bogdanovic-Collins minutes.
The idea of the series now, after that Game 1 dramatic win, is that Trae Young is the key. However, Bogdanovic and Collins are also good matchups in this series, and they're not going away.
The series price opened as a pick 'em before Game 1, but those odds shifted to Knicks +200 / Hawks -250 after Atlanta's win. That odds adjustment makes sense after the Hawks stole one in New York. That notwithstanding, Atlanta's home-court advantage doesn't figure to be as strong as the Knicks', and the Hawks are still a flawed team.
When to Buy In on Atlanta
The Knicks can get back into this series, and at that point, the number on the Hawks is likely to drop. Be on the lookout to see what the Hawks' series price looks like if the Knicks win Game 2. If the Hawks' odds are still -200 or shorter, then wait for the games in Atlanta. The Knicks are likely to win one game on the road, which would subsequently shift the narrative and the odds.
The Hawks have more adjustments to make in this series, as well as better matchups on the surface before adjustments, bringing more chances for counter-adjustments. The Hawks were a good bet to win this series before it began, and are a better one now, but the key is to wait for the right time.
For Game 2, I like the Knicks -1 in the first half (-109 at DraftKings). I lean towards Knicks -2 for the game, but given that we accept the Hawks are better, the variance leans in their direction. Moreover, I don't want to just assume the Knicks won't go down 0-2.
I already made that mistake with the Clippers.