Apr 22, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks power forward Josh Smith (5) and New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) fight for a rebound during the first half at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports

Hawks vs Knicks: Game Preview

Only two games separate the Atlanta Hawks and the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference standings. Unfortunately for the Hawks, there are three teams between them and the second place Knicks.

With an average age of 31.3 years, the Knicks have the oldest roster in the NBA. That’s a full 4 years older per player than the Atlanta Hawks. That’s not to say the Knicks will need to find a fountain of youth to compete for a championship, but it might help to explain a recent 8-10 slide after starting 18-5.

Still, the New York Knicks have proven to be for real. Despite finishing 7th last season in the Eastern Conference and replacing Linsanity with AARPsanity, the Knicks have jumped into the ranks of the elite this year.

They have the third best offensive efficiency and the fifth best efficiency differential. Leading the charge is MVP candidate Carmelo Anthony, whom many have seen a marked improvement in defense this season. He is shooting well for someone with such a high volume of shots, averaging 29 points per game in 37.7 minutes shooting .507 eFG% (.565 TS%). His PER of 24.8 is 6th in the league.

The point guard position has been a turnstile for a while now, and the Knicks only accelerated that process by rejecting a 3 year, $25 million offer that the Rockets dared them to match. In his place, they signed Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd for about the same price combined. Felton has since gotten injured, but both have rebounded from poor 2011-12 efforts. They have both lead the team to the smallest turnover rate, as both have about 3 assists for every turnover. Pablo Prigioni has stepped in in Felton’s absence as well and handled the ball smoothly.

Tyson Chandler remains possibly the best defender in the NBA. With Zaza Pachulia possibly being held out, boxing him out and keeping him off the boards will be a supreme focus. Steve Novak is still a capable sharp shooter with a tendency to get hot. It will be difficult to win a shootout against the Knicks with so many weapons. The Hawks should look to attach Carmelo Anthony, Chandler, and Amare in the low post with Horford and Smith.

The game is being broadcast nationally on ESPN at 6:30 PM (ET).

Tags: Atlanta Hawks New York Knicks

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