Scouts on what Knicks need to do to beat Hawks in 2021 NBA playoffs

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Knicks Hawks playoffs treated
Knicks Hawks playoffs treated

With Game 1 of Knicks-Hawks approaching, we asked a few opposing scouts what the Knicks need to do to win the series.

Here’s what they said:

‘STAY AT THE 3-POINT LINE... TRY TO TAKE IT AWAY’

Under Nate McMillan, the Hawks had the eighth-best offense in the NBA.

Atlanta’s perimeter shooting is a major factor in its success.

Danilo Gallinari is hitting 42.3 percent of his three-point attempts under McMillan; Bogdan Bogdanovic is hitting 45.5 percent of his threes under the head coach; John Collins is at 41 percent. Kevin Huerter (36 percent) and Lou Williams (41.1 percent) also shot well.

Even with Trae Young shooting 31.5 percent from three under McMillan, Atlanta had the No. 4 overall 3-point percentage (38.7 percent).

That’s why one scout thinks the Knicks will do well if they prioritize guarding the perimeter.

“With Huerter – it’s not like he’s a super wing and dangerous – his thing is to shoot threes,” the scout said. “Huerter and Bogdanovic – make them drivers and take away the 3-point shot. I think that would be a win for the Knicks.

“I would think about playing (Elfrid) Payton and (Reggie) Bullock on Huerter and Bogdanovic at times,” the scout said. “If they stay at the 3-point line and try to take it away, influence (the Hawks) to drive, I think the Knicks will be in good shape.”

The Knicks’ perimeter defense has been strong all season. Tom Thibodeau’s club finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in opponent 3-point field goal percentage. New York also ranked No. 1 in opponent field goal percentage and No. 4 in defensive efficiency.

That well-earned regular season reputation will be tested by the Hawks.

“PUNISH” TRAE YOUNG ON DEFENSE

As noted earlier this week, slowing down Young will be a key for the Knicks in the series.

Another key? How the Knicks approach Young on the other side of the ball.

“I would try to punish him at the other end and make him guard,” one scout says. “This isn’t groundbreaking but he hurts (the Hawks) on that end. So that’s how I would attack him.”

The Hawks’ net rating is plus-5.2 with Young on the court. Obviously, he’s a driving force behind Atlanta’s success. But the Hawks allow five fewer points per 100 possessions in the regular season when Young wasn’t on the floor.

“Offensively, he’s so talented. He’ll score the ball; he’ll take some bad shots, but he’ll get his points. And he gets to the free throw line. He’s a confident scorer. Where you can have the edge on him is on the other end of the floor.

“I would attack him as often as I could. Put him in pick and roll. He’s not going to fight over screens. Try to get him switched on to players that can go by him. The problem is, I think the only guy that I would trust to do that would be Derrick Rose. I’m not a big Payton guy. But I just don’t think (Young) is a very willing defender. You can take advantage of him, in some aspects, on the defensive end, using him or trying to attack him in some way.”

“WIN WHEN CAPELA’S OUT”

Atlanta ranked 18th in defensive efficiency during the regular season.

If they could have played Clint Capela 48 minutes per game, that rating might have been higher.

Atlanta allowed 108 points per 100 possessions with Capela on the court this season. That would have been the fifth-best mark in the league. The Hawks allowed 113 points per 100 possessions when Capela was on the bench, a rating that would have ranked 23rd league-wide if applied to a full season.

“Whether it’s Rose, (RJ) Barrett or (Julius) Randle, someone needs to get Capela in foul trouble,” a scout says. “If they can either pull him away (from the rim) with Randle or get him off the floor, they can win when Capela’s out.”

Capela, the NBA’s leading rebounder, didn’t have a high foul rate in the regular season. So it’s not like the Knicks can take advantage of an undisciplined defender.

But New York may be able to take advantage against the Hawks’ second unit. Both Rose and Immanuel Quickley have had success against Atlanta this season. Rose and Quickley are both shooting over 50 percent from the floor against the Hawks.

“If you have (Gallinari) and Collins on the floor without Capela, you have to win those minutes (if you’re the Knicks),” the scout says.