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What it will take for the Knicks to beat the Hawks in their first-round series

The Knicks are back in the playoffs after an eight-year absence and face a rising Atlanta squad in the first round.

Boston Celtics v New York Knicks
Julius Randle of the New York Knicks dribbles the ball during the game against the Boston Celtics on May 16, 2021 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. 
Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

The No. 4 seed New York Knicks return to the postseason after an eight-year gap and will be taking on the No. 5 seed Atlanta Hawks in the first round. 13,000 Knicks fans will be able to see their team take the floor at Madison Square Garden in person as NBA teams increase capacity limits for the playoffs.

Knicks keys to victory

The Knicks have one of the best defenses in the league and will need to hone in Hawks guard Trae Young in this series. He’s averaging 25.3 points and 9.4 assists per game this season but he’s in a slight shooting slump over the last nine games, hitting just 25 percent of his attempts from behind the arc. Young can get hot quickly though and has the capability to take over a series.

New York will also have to limit Atlanta’s second-chance opportunities. The Hawks averaged 10.6 offensive rebounds per game, tied for third-most in the league. The Knicks can’t afford to give the Hawks additional shots given their potent offense. In what is expected to be a tight series, every possession will count. Mitchell Robinson will be sorely missed in this department.

Knicks vs. Hawks series odds

Knicks: +100
Hawks: -121

This line has shifted over the last few days toward the Hawks, but it’s still very close. New York will potentially have the best player on the floor in Julius Randle and will have to take advantage of what should be an electric home crowd, even if it’s at 62.5 percent capacity.

NBA Championship odds

Knicks: +10000
Hawks: +10000

Both teams are not popular picks to win the 2021 NBA title, but this is a potential primer of future championship-level squads. The Knicks and Hawks both have young cores on the rise and cap space to make big free agency moves. This series will be massive for both organizations to show they are on the right trajectory.

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