Wednesday NBA Playoffs Betting Odds, Preview for Hawks vs. Knicks: Back Barrett, New York to Even Series (May 26)
Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: RJ Barrett.
- The New York Knicks look to even their series against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
- Trae Young was a key difference-maker for the Hawks in Game 1, but Joe Dellera thinks RJ Barrett can attack him on the other end of the floor.
- Check out Dellera's full betting guide complete, with updated odds and his pick below.
Hawks vs. Knicks Odds
|Moneyline||+110 / -130|
|Time||Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. ET|
The Knicks are looking to avenge their Game 1 loss to the Hawks and leave the Garden with a split on Wednesday.
Trae Young was incredible in Game 1 and will try to replicate that performance on Wednesday night. It's not often a player can come into the Garden and silence an entire crowd, but Trae did just that while scoring 32 points, nearly completing a triple-double and draining the game-winning bucket.
Will the Knicks be able to salvage home-court, or will the Hawks head to Atlanta with a commanding 2-0 lead? Let's break it down.
Hunter's Return Proves to be Big for Atlanta
The news has endlessly talked about Young's performance, and rightfully so. He played extremely well in Game 1, but there's a different Hawk whose role was just as critical.
The Hawks had long awaited the return of De'Andre Hunter after he had missed a significant portion of this season with a knee injury, and he did not disappoint. He's an excellent defender, and his length and athleticism proved to be problematic for New York. On the season, Hunter improved the Hawks' defense by 7.4 points per 100 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass.
The way he covered both Julius Randle and RJ Barrett exemplified this. He stepped up to defend both off the dribble, but his length also was critical for defending and closing down on passing lanes. The counter is for Randle to recognize these reads more quickly, but that's easier said than done.
Atlanta did a lot of things well against New York, including limiting it to just a 35.7% shooting percentage from downtown. However, the looks New York got were still solid, and it had an expected eFG% of 54.1%, which is about league average compared to the regular season.
I'd expect a bit of shooting improvement from the Knicks considering they had the best 3-point shooting percentage in the league since April 1 at 42.5%.
Knicks Need to Attack Young
The Knicks have listed Nerlens Noel as questionable with a sprained right ankle, which would be a notable loss for New York if he's unable to play. He's been an excellent defender this season, and it'd be damaging for the Knicks' depth at the center position. Head coach Tom Thibodeau has indicated Noel should be fine and that he was feeling better on Tuesday, but keep an eye on his status using our Labs Insiders Tool.
The Knicks started off slow and scored just 16 points in the first quarter of Game 1, but after that, they scored 29.6 points per quarter and outscored the Hawks, 89-83. Obviously, all quarters are important here, but it's possible it took the Knicks a little while to get totally acclimated to the playoff environment.
One player who needs the ball in his hands more is Barrett.
All anyone may remember is that he threw down a monster slam on a fast break, but he did struggle a bit from 3 last game.
But the reason he needs the ball more is he can clearly exploit matchups with Young. We know Young is not an All-NBA Defender, and by attacking him, Barrett can tire him out and maybe draw enough contact to get him into foul trouble.
Look at this:
I need to see so much more of this from RJ Barrett in Game 2. It’s a clear mismatch and maybe a way to get Trae into foul trouble.
— Joe Dellera 🥖 (@JoeDellera) May 25, 2021
Barrett literally backs down Young from the 3-point line for a post-up layup. That's exhausting to deal with for anyone, let alone someone of Young's size. This is a matchup the Knicks need to exploit.
The Knicks have a legitimate home-court advantage at the Garden, and now that they have one game under their belt, this is as close to a must-win game as any before they head to Atlanta. But this game will come down to adjustments and shooting regression.
The Knicks might have found something as the game progressed and their offense seemed to find another gear despite the inefficiencies from Randle and Barrett.
Although the Hawks have defended 3-pointers well all season, the Knicks have plenty of room for improvement considering Barrett and Randle — both 40%+ from 3-point range — combined for 3-of-12 beyond the arc.
While the Knicks certainly can't expect Alec Burks to drop 27 on 9-of-13 shooting again, they can expect their two centerpieces to improve on offense by exploiting some mismatches and attacking Young.
I expect a big game from Barrett, who has averaged 19.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in four games against this Hawks team this season, and I expect the Knicks to bounce back and even this series.
Picks: Knicks -1.5 | RJ Barrett Over 17.5 points.