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NBA Odds, Game 1 Preview, Prediction for Hawks vs. Knicks: How to Bet Eastern Conference Playoff Matchup in New York City (May 23)

NBA Odds, Game 1 Preview, Prediction for Hawks vs. Knicks: How to Bet Eastern Conference Playoff Matchup in New York City (May 23) article feature image

Sarah Stier/Getty Images. Pictured: Julius Randle.

  • The Knicks mark their return to the playoffs on Sunday at Madison Square Garden against the Hawks.
  • New York has thrived defensively this season and will face an Atlanta team that has been rejuvenated with Nate McMillan at the helm.
  • Joe Dellera breaks down where he sees value in Game 1, delivering his best bet for the game below.

Hawks vs. Knicks Odds

Hawks Odds +1.5
Knicks Odds -1.5
Moneyline +102 / -121
Over/Under 215
Time Sunday, 7 p.m. ET
Odds as of Saturday and via DraftKings

The Knicks make their long awaited return to the NBA playoffs on Sunday with a matchup against the Atlanta Hawks and Trae Young, who will be making his postseason debut.

Despite New York sweeping the three-game regular-season series, I expect this series to be a grind between two teams who finished the season with the same 41-31 record and identical point differentials per 100 possessions since April 1 (+2.3).

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Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks have been a different team since Nat McMillan took over for Lloyd Pierce on March 1. Since then, the Hawks are 27-11 straight-up and have a point differential of +4.6 points per 100 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass.

Atlanta has improved offensively under McMillan and locked their opponents down defensively, as well. Specifically, the Hawks’ eFG% saw an uptick. They have the eighth-best shooting percentage from 3-point range since the coaching change (38.5%). Part of this is because they saw some key players return from injury, but McMillan taking the reins injected new life into this Hawks team.

Defensively, Atlanta has done a good job on the perimeter, allowing just a 35.2% shooting percentage from 3-point range under McMillan despite allowing attempts at about a league-average rate. The Hawks’ length and depth from their wings have led to a strong defense against opposing teams’ 3-point attack.

While this is not new news, the Hawks will be without Cam Reddish and don’t expect him to be ready to return during this first round due to his Achilles injury.

New York Knicks

The Knicks are in the playoffs. That’s a statement most did not expect to be said following the 2020-21 regular season, but New York has exceeded every expectation to get here and now have home-court advantage.

The issue here is something we’ve seen with Tom Thibodeau-coached teams, that they give 110% in every game of the regular season and seemingly do not have that extra gear to lock in during the playoffs. It’s not a knock on Coach Thibodeau, who gets the absolute most out of his players, but it does give you some pause when looking to back one of his teams in the postseason.

Is there something different this year? I’d say so. Thibs has already hinted that he may make a change and even if Elfrid Payton starts in Game 1, the leash may be short because Frank Ntilikina has done a decent job defending Young.

The Knicks play significantly better when Derrick Rose or rookie Immanuel Quickley are at the point position instead of Payton, but Thibodeau has kept them out of the starting lineup when Payton is healthy.

That being said, it has not kept Thibs from playing them down the stretch to finish games. The Knicks play much better defense with either Rose or Quickley on the floor rather than off. Payton is a team worst -9.8 points per 100 including 5.8 points worse per 100 possessions on defense, per Cleaning the Glass.

Hawks-Knicks Pick

I wrote about this series in our staff playoff betting preview, and I think there’s value on over 5.5 games. Here, I’ll focus on Game 1.

Since Thibodeau has already indicated he will not be changing his starting lineup at this point, I’m looking to exploit that in the betting market. I lean toward the over on this game, especially in the first half. These teams generally play at a slow pace and have been profitable for the under this season, but this plays into the public’s mindset when betting.

At the time of this writing, 57% of bets and 59% of dollars are on the full-game over. Considering how Thibodeau structures his lineup, I want to target the first half.

Over the last three seasons, when both teams have a pace under 100 and have hit the under on over 50% of their games, the 1H Over is 38-19, covering by a margin of 4.67 points.

I don’t think playoff jitters will affect these teams. The Knicks are playing with house money at this point, and the Hawks just played a string of games to finish the season that were critical for seeding purposes.

Let’s root for some points.

Pick: 1H Over 109.5

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