Knicks look to avenge recent loss to Hawks
NEW YORK — Just two weeks weeks after forcing the New York Knicks into 20 turnovers in a 12-point home win, the Atlanta Hawks travel to Madison Square Garden for a rematch with Kristaps Porzingis and Company.
This time, the Hawks bring a little momentum to MSG with them, or, at least as much momentum as one of the worst teams in the NBA can bring.
Atlanta (6-19) heads to New York on Sunday coming off splits in back-to-back back-to-backs: After splitting a home-and-home with the Brooklyn Nets to start the month, the Hawks split a home-and-home with the Orlando Magic, winning in Atlanta on Saturday night, 117-110.
The Knicks, meanwhile, enter the contest coming off a loss to the one team in the NBA with fewer wins than the Hawks. New York (12-13) allowed six players to score in double-figures in a 104-102 loss at Chicago on Saturday night.
The first time the two teams met on Nov. 24, the game may just have come down to the one statistical differential: turnovers. In fact, the Knicks outshot Atlanta from the field, 51.3 to 47.5 percent, and from the free-throw line, 85.7 percent to 75 percent in the loss. New York lost the rebounding battle by two, an insignificant margin, and both teams had 30 assists.
But the gaffes got to the Knicks, who had seven players with multiple turnovers and four players with three or more. Atlanta, which had just nine turnovers in the contest, attempted 21 more shots from the field than New York.
“We’d like to start better than giving up 39 in the first quarter, but defensively we found a way to get better,” Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer told reporters after the win over the Knicks. “Guys played harder and competed better. The offense kind of maintained itself throughout the game. “
With Dennis Schroder becoming the team’s top — and often only — scoring option, Atlanta has shown some life the last two weeks. The Hawks are 3-4 in their last seven games after starting the season 3-15 as Schroder has averaged 23 points per game over the stretch. The career 12 point-per-game scorer is averaging 20.5 on the season and no other Hawk is averaging more than 12.5.
Schroder got some help on Saturday against the Magic. Ersan Ilyasova was a perfect 9-for-9 from the field and 5-for-5 from 3-point range while scoring 26 points to lead the Hawks.
But with second-leading scorer Tim Hardaway Jr. sidelined indefinitely with a stress injury in his lower left leg, the Knicks have become a bit one-note as well. Porzingis had 23 points in the loss to the Bulls, but no other New York starter had more than 14 (Courtney Lee) and four players had 10 points.
Hardaway will be re-evaluated in two weeks, but his absence looms large.
“He’s working hard with our medical team,” Knicks GM Scott Perry told reporters before the game in Chicago. “We’re going to re-evaluate it in two weeks. I’m optimistic that we’re doing all the right things. It’s good having him around and I think eventually he’ll be OK.”