The New York Knicks were defeated by the Atlanta Hawks last night 103-89, ending the series in five games. Mainstream sports media has not given this Hawks team the credit they deserve. The media seems to pander to the bigger market teams, but make no mistake, the Atlanta Hawks have arrived. With the depth that the Hawks have, they will beat the 76ers in the second round:
The focal point of the Hawks’ offense is Trae Young. He is the points and assists leader of the team, and his fingerprints were all over this 4-1 series win. Young hit a clutch floater in Game 1 to secure the win over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, giving them loads of momentum moving forward in the series. Trae seemed to thrive off the booing and heckling from Knicks fans. He shows up when needed to win games. Trae is young, hungry, and has now proven he can beat a respectable opponent in a seven-game series.
In the first round, Young averaged 29.2 points and 9.8 assists, while going 44% from the field. He is putting up legendary numbers in his playoff debut. The Knicks’ defense didn’t seem to have an answer for his shooting and playmaking proficiencies, and neither will the 76ers. Joel Embiid is listed as OUT with a meniscus tear, giving the Hawks a significant edge in rebounding, and a clear mismatch at the center position.
The media has also failed to mention the tremendous depth that the Hawks roster has. One of the deeper teams in the Eastern Conference, Atlanta has Kevin Huerter, Danilo Gallinari, Onyeka Okongwu, and Lou Williams in their second string. A three-point sharpshooter, Kevin Huerter, can nail it from anywhere beyond the arc with consistency. He shot 45% from 3-point range in the first round, while attempting 4.5 3’s a game. A great floor general, Huerter can set up Capela/Okongwu for the easy alley-oop dunk.
Often referred to as “Lemon Pepper Lou”, 3x sixth man of the year award recipient, Lou Williams, has proven to be a solid backup to Superstar PG Trae Young. The veteran knows how to run an offense and provides great spacing on the offensive end of the floor. A true role player, his impact on the game doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. His impact shows up in floor spacing and giving Trae Young time to rest.
Hawks’ rookie center, Onyeka Okongwu, has also had a significant impact on the Hawks’ postseason success. Okongwu contributes on the defensive end of the floor, as well as in the rebounding column. The rookie is proving himself and is slowly earning himself more minutes in the playoffs. Lastly, Gallinari has been spotty in shooting, however, he brings size and defensive prowess to the floor that you normally wouldn’t find in a second string.
Atlanta also has a few guys deeper on the roster, like Kris Dunn and Solomon Hill, that provide great help on defense while also contributing to the points and assists categories. Tony Snell is another name that can put up points when needed.
What to Expect in Round Two
Round Two will not be easy. Seth Curry is an elite sharpshooter that the Hawks’ defense should be trying to figure out how to suppress. Joel Embiid being out would likely make Dwight Howard the 76ers starting center, with Mike Scott playing backup. This will be a big disadvantage for Phillie, and the Hawks will have to exploit it to win. Ben Simmons’ size will be tough for Trae Young to defend. I imagine Nate McMillan will put a bigger body on Simmons to prevent easy drives to the basket.
Our bench will outscore their bench by a mile. Trae Young and the Hawks’ deep bench will wear this 76ers squad down in a seven-game series.
Hawks in 6.