In what could be a preview of the 2013 Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Atlanta Hawks will travel to play the New York Knicks. This will be the third and final clash between the two sides in 2012-13.
The Knicks have won each of their first two matchups.
Entering this game, the Hawks are 44-37 overall and 19-21 on the road. They're currently a tiebreak behind the Chicago Bulls for fifth in the Eastern Conference.
Consider this to be a must-win for Atlanta.
As for New York, the Knicks are 53-28 overall and 30-10 at home. They've already clinched the second seed in the Eastern Conference and are looking to build momentum entering the postseason.
So which team will emerge victorious in what could be a postseason preview? Let's find out.
Time: Wednesday, Apr. 17 at 8:00 p.m. EDT
TV: TSOH & MSG
Records: Atlanta Hawks (44-37, 19-21 road) at New York Knicks (53-28, 30-10 home)
Betting Line: N/A
Atlanta Hawks Injury Report
Al Horford, Sore Hamstring, Questionable
Zaza Pachulia, Partially Torn Right Achilles Tendon, Out
DeShawn Stevenson, Illness, Questionable
Lou Williams, Torn Right ACL, Out
New York Knicks Injury Report
Tyson Chandler, Bulging Disc in Neck, Out
Jason Kidd, Rest, Doubtful
Kenyon Martin, Sprained Left Ankle, Out
J.R. Smith, Rest, Out
Amar'e Stoudemire, Knee Debridement Surgery, Out
Key Storyline: Atlanta's Fight for Fifth
In order to secure fifth place in the Eastern Conference, the Atlanta Hawks must avoid losing this game. They've lost two of three against the Chicago Bulls and thus are on the unfavorable side of the postseason tiebreak.
The question is, can the Hawks come up big against the second-seed New York Knicks and improve their chances?
The Knicks are expected to rest a majority of their players, as illustrated in their injury report. With that being said, New York is a deep team with an abundance of quality players that are ready to step up and come out in full force.
If Josh Smith wants to make his case as an All-Star in 2013-14, however, he'll carry the Hawks to a needed win.
Key Matchup: Raymond Felton vs. Jeff Teague
As it presently stands, there is no telling how long the Knicks will keep their impact role players in the game. That includes point guard Raymond Felton, who is in the midst of a high-quality season.
With that being said, the Atlanta Hawks will only win this game if Jeff Teague can overcome Felton's well-rounded game.
Teague has been excellent in 2012-13, coming up in clutch situations for the Hawks and leading the second-ranked facilitating team in the NBA. As an individual, he's averaging 14.7 points, 7.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
Just don't think Felton can't match him dime-for-dime.
The Knicks are the leading three-point shooting team in the NBA at 10.9 three-point field goals made per game. If the Hawks are to keep up, they'll need Teague to facilitate and shoot at an elite level.
These may be New York's replacement players, per say, but that doesn't mean they can't stroke it.
X-Factor: Kyle Korver, Atlanta Hawks
As previously alluded to, the Knicks are an elite team when it comes to shooting the three-ball. They're first in the NBA in three-point field goals and fourth in three-point field-goal percentage.
It just so happens that the Atlanta Hawks are third in three-point field goals made and sixth in three-point field goal percentage—Kyle Korver is at the heart of that success.
Korver is currently third in the NBA at 45.4 percent shooting from beyond the arc. He's also fourth with 186 three-point field goals made on the season.
Matched up against Steve Novak and a deep crop of three-point shooters, the Hawks will need Korver to be at his very best on Wednesday.
When the Hawks play the Knicks, the latter team will be resting a majority of their players. In fact, the Knicks will be without Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith and Amar'e Stoudemire.
Who will win?
What better a time for the Hawks to move up in the standings than this?
The Hawks could be without Al Horford and DeShawn Stevenson, but they still boast a superior lineup. While players such as Felton and Chris Copeland could make this interesting, there is no reason for the Hawks to lose this game.
That is, if they can handle the pressure.
Look for Atlanta to respond well, coming out firing from beyond the arc. Josh Smith will work it inside, as well, all the while looking to push the pace in transition against Copeland.
Just don't expect New York's role players to go down without a fight.
Atlanta Hawks 104, New York Knicks 94