Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks faced the Celtics at home on Opening Night and our prediction was…not great. New York will now head to playoff rival Atlanta to face Trae Young and the Hawks.

We all know how this goes. Everyone gets excited and hyped for the game, someone shouts “F*** Trae Young,” and we all get a cheap chuckle while waiting for the weekend. It’s also the Hawks’ home opener after starting their season with a loss at Charlotte.

It’s still early and, in the grand scheme of things, this game is meaningless. Yet, after a tough loss to Boston, will the Knicks have that extra spark in Hot-lanta?

Time: Friday, Oct. 27, 7:30 p.m. ET


Injuries: Wesley Matthews (OUT; calf)

Betting Line: Knicks +1.5, Over/Under 229.5 via DraftKings

Key Storyline: Which versions of the Knicks and Hawks will we see? The Knicks and Hawks can both be streaky teams, making this whole preview tough from the get-go. For example, Atlanta beat the Knicks in the playoffs in 2021, but New York swept the season series 3-0. The Knicks also hold a 5-3 edge over Atlanta in the last two years.

It helps that Hawks coach Quin Snyder is 12-4 against New York in his career, including 3-1 over Thibodeau’s teams. However, these Knicks are a gritty bunch and will be looking to build a big lead early. That’ll be tough against a deep and well-coached Hawks team.

Key Matchup: Quentin Grimes vs. Dejounte MurrayGrimes’ defense should be on full display because Murray should be motivated to have a strong showing. Atlanta’s two-way 2-guard managed just 11 points and six assists against Charlotte, shot just 3 of 14, and was a net -15 for the game. Uncharacteristic for someone who averaged 20.5 points and 6.1 assists last season.

Grimes needs to do all he can to slow Murray because without him, the Hawks don’t have a reliable go-to scorer alongside Young.

X-Factor: Josh Hart. Atlanta will look to win this game in the backcourt, meaning Hart’s pesky defense off the bench will be essential. However, this could be the rare game where Hart also performs well on offense. Believe it or not, he’s averaged 14.7 points and shot 52.5% from the floor in six career games against Atlanta. Hart has also made nearly 47.5% of his threes in this stretch.

Granted, that’s largely because Hart leaned heavily on the three in these games, but he’s still been efficient. Moreover, he’s been nothing but efficient since joining the Knicks last February. He won’t need to score at Immanuel Quickley levels, but Hart clearly knows how to handle the Hawks. The Knicks need him to bring that something extra.

Knicks predicted starters: Jalen Brunson (PG), Quentin Grimes (SG), RJ Barrett (SF), Julius Randle (PF), Mitchell Robinson (C)

Hawks predicted starters: Trae Young (PG), Dejounte Murray (SG), DeAndre Hunter (SF), Saddiq Bey (PF), Clint Capela (C)

Prediction: Truly a tough call because both teams will be motivated, fueled to win after close season-opening losses to division rivals. Atlanta has home-court advantage and more depth off the bench, particularly in the shooting department. The Knicks don’t have that same consistency, but are the more physical team.

It’s that very physicality that should carry the Knicks on Friday, particularly since Atlanta’s bigs don’t stretch the floor like Boston’s Kristaps Porzingis.

New York Knicks beat Atlanta Hawks, 121-105

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.