Knicks to match up with Hawks in first round of Eastern Conference Playoffs

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Knicks Julius Randle and Tom Thibodeau fist pound
Knicks Julius Randle and Tom Thibodeau fist pound

With their win over the Boston Celtics on Sunday, the Knicks earned the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference for the NBA Playoffs and home court advantage against the No. 5 seed Atlanta Hawks in the first round.

The Knicks beat the Hawks three times in the regular season, but head coach Tom Thibodeau puts little value in that now that it's playoff time.

"It means nothing going into the playoffs," Thibodeau said. "So the regular season is the regular season. When you play those games there's a lot of things that go into it. There could be players out, there could be travel involved. Now you're at a zero base, and we know how well they're playing. They've gotten a lot better as the season was going on. So we're gonna have to be ready and we're gonna have to play a 48 minute game."

Thibodeau is proud of his team's effort this season, and reiterated the different level of intensity that takes place in the playoffs.

"The season continues on, so it's important to appreciate the effort and the work that has gone into it thus far, but to also understand the challenge continues," Thibodeau said. "There's an intensity level to the playoffs that is much different than the regular season, so we have to prepare ourselves for that as well."

The Knicks' three wins over the Hawks were all competitive games, beating them 113-108 on Jan. 4, 123-112 on Feb. 15, and 137-127 in OT on April 21.

"Each game will be different, we know how good the playoff teams are and we have to be ready," Thibodeau said. "It's a highly competitive environment. There's nothing easy, it's tests your will. It's going to test you in a lot of different ways, and hopefully we built the proper habits throughout the course for the season to prepare ourselves for that type of intensity and environment."

The Hawks are led by point guard Trae Young, who averaged 25.5 points and 9.4 assists this year in his third NBA season. Knicks veteran Derrick Rose spoke about the matchup with the young star.

"Oh it's great, I mean great young talent," Rose said. "You see that with their team and what they got, and how they've been playing with a lot of energy. We got to lock in and make sure everybody is on the same page. He's a lot to deal with when he's playing free. We always got to make sure we have bodies around him, and test all his shots to make it hard on him. Not only him, but his entire team."