2021 Playoffs: East First Round | Knicks vs. Hawks

Numbers preview: Knicks (4) vs. Hawks (5)

Breaking down deep stats that could shape the series between New York and Atlanta.

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann

The New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks were two of the league’s three most improved teams. And in the Eastern Conference in 2021, that takes you to the 4 and 5 seeds. So one of these teams that didn’t qualify for the season restart a year ago is going to reach the conference semifinals. The Knicks swept the season series, but all three games were close and this may be the most evenly matched first-round series in either conference.

Here are some statistical notes to get you ready for the 4-5 series in the East, with links to let you dive in and explore more. Game 1 is Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on TNT.


Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions


New York Knicks (41-31)

Pace: 96.3 (30)
OffRtg: 110.2 (22)
DefRtg: 107.8 (4)
NetRtg: +2.4 (9)

Regular season: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups

vs. Atlanta: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups

Knicks notes – General:

  1. Ended a seven-year playoff drought, what was the league’s third longest active drought entering this season and one year shy of tying the record for an Eastern Conference team.
  2. Were the league’s third most improved team, both in regard to winning percentage (+0.251) and point differential per 100 possessions (+8.9).
  3. Were 6.7 points per 100 possessions better in the first half of games (+5.3, seventh) than they were in the second half (-1.4, 24th). Only the Nuggets and Spurs saw bigger drop offs from half to half.
  4. Their 12 losses (they were 37-12) after leading by double-digits were tied for the most in the league. Their 11 wins (they were 11-24) after trailing by double-digits were tied for the fifth most.

Knicks 2020-21 shot profile

 Area FGM FGA FG% Rank %FGA Rank
Restricted area 1,106 1,849 59.8% 30 30% 12
Other paint 477 1,192 40.0% 24 19% 9
Mid-range 411 1,025 40.1% 19 16% 6
Corner 3 275 642 42.8% 3 10% 7
Above-break 3 570 1,512 37.7% 6 24% 29

%FGA = Percentage of total field goal attempts

Knicks notes – Offense:

  1. Ranked 29th in assist percentage, recording assists on only 54.3% of their field goals. Ranked last with just 2.1 secondary assists per game.
  2. Only team that ranked in the top 10 in 3-point percentage (39.2%, third), but in the bottom 10 in the percentage of their shots that came from 3-point range (34.7%, 24th). Have six players (most in the Eastern Conference) who shot 38% or better on at least 100 3-point attempts. Led the league in clutch 3-point percentage, shooting 40-for-95 (42.1%) from beyond the arc with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime.
  3. 29.7% of their 3-point attempts, the league’s highest rate, came from the corners.
  4. Ranked last in fast break points per game (8.9) for the second straight season. Led the league in time of possession (21.6 minutes per game).
  5. Saw the league’s biggest drop in offensive rebounding percentage, from 30.0% (first) last season to 26.4% (17th) this season.
  6. Played against 494 total possessions of zone, most in the league, according to Synergy tracking. The 0.89 points per possession they scored against zone ranked 29th.

Knicks four factors

 Own/Opp. eFG% Rank FTA Rate Rank TO% Rank OREB% Rank
Own 52.4% 23 0.242 17 13.3% 11 26.4% 17
Opponent 50.9% 2 0.257 20 13.1% 20 26.2% 12

eFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
FTA Rate = FTA/FGA
TO% = Turnovers per 100 possessions
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained

Knicks notes – Defense:

  1. Saw the league’s biggest drop (-4.6) in points allowed per 100 possessions, from 112.4 (23rd) last season to 107.8 (fourth) this season. Had ranked in the bottom 10 defensively for four straight seasons and in 13 of the last 16.
  2. 73% of their opponents’ shots, the league’s second highest rate, came from the restricted area (32%, eighth highest) or 3-point range (41%, seventh highest). But they ranked first in both opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area (60.5%) and opponent 3-point percentage (33.7%).
  3. Allowed just 16.8 points per game in transition, tied for the fewest in the league.
  4. Ranked last in charges drawn per game (0.22).
  5. Led the league in clutch defense, allowing just 95.5 points per 100 possessions with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime.
  6. Played only 31 possessions of zone, third fewest in the league, according to Synergy tracking.

Knicks notes – Lineups:

  1. Starting lineup (with Nerlens Noel at center) played 554 total minutes, fifth most in the league. It was outscored by 4.6 points per 100 possessions, the fourth worst mark among 30 lineups that played at least 200 minutes.
  2. RJ Barrett and Julius Randle played 2,174 minutes together, most among any pair of teammates this season.
  3. Ranked second in aggregate bench point differential per 100 possessions (+2.7), with the biggest improvement from last season (-2.7, 25th).
  4. Allowed 97.6 points per 100 possessions with Immanuel Quickley and Derrick Rose on the floor together. That was the fourth lowest mark among 833 two-man combinations that played at least 400 minutes.

Knicks notes – Individuals:

  1. RJ Barrett shot 60-for-140 (47.1%) from 3-point range in April and May, the fourth best mark among 92 players with at least 100 attempts.
  2. Barrett saw the second biggest jump in free throw percentage (from 61.4% to 74.6%) among 123 players with at least 100 attempts in each of the last two seasons.
  3. Reggie Bullock had an effective field goal percentage of 58.7%, up from 48.4% last season. That was the fifth biggest jump among 250 players with at least 200 field goal attempts in each of the last two seasons. It came with the third biggest jump among those same 250 players in the percentage of his shots coming from 3-point range (from 49.6% to 70.9%).
  4. Bullock scored 1.52 points per possession (154/102) in transition, the best mark among 134 players with at least 100 transition possessions, according to Synergy tracking.
  5. 93.5% of Bullock’s baskets, the second highest rate among 177 players with at least 200 total field goals, were assisted.
  6. Alec Burks shot 46-for-99 (46.5%) on pull-up 3s, the second best mark among 93 players who attempted at least 75.
  7. Nerlens Noel ranked third in blocks per game (2.2) and second in steals + blocks per 36 minutes (4.91).
  8. Noel accounted for just 8.2% of his teams’ field goal attempts while he was on the floor, the second lowest rate among 362 players who played at least 500 minutes. Taj Gibson had the fourth lowest rate (9.3%).
  9. Noel committed 17.8 turnovers per 100 possessions, the third highest rate among 345 players who averaged at least 10 minutes per game.
  10. Elfrid Payton had an assist/turnover ratio of 1.97, down from 3.36 last season. That was the biggest drop among 182 players who played at least 1,000 minutes in each of the last two seasons.
  11. Immanuel Quickley shot 55-for-118 (46.6%) on catch-and-shoot 3s, the 12th best mark among 227 players who attempted at least 100.
  12. Quickley ranked 11th in free throw percentage at 89.1%, the fourth best mark for a qualified rookie in NBA history.
  13. Julius Randle was one of two players – Nikola Jokic was the other – who ranked in the top 20 in points (19th), rebounds (12th) and assists (20th) per game. He was one of four players with at least 100 total assists to multiple teammates: 117 to Bullock and 115 to Barrett.
  14. Randle saw the second biggest jump in 3-point percentage (from 27.7% to 41.1%) among 202 players with at least 100 3-point attempts in each of the last two seasons. Barrett (from 32.0% to 40.1%), Derrick Rose (from 30.6% to 38.8%) and Bullock (from 33.3% to 41.0%) saw the 10th, 11th and 13th biggest jumps, respectively.
  15. Randle led the league in both field goals (67) and 3-pointers (27) in the last four seconds of the shot clock. He ranked second with 393 total isolation possessions, according to Synergy tracking. The 0.90 points per possession he scored on isos ranked 30th among 42 players with at least 100 isolation possessions.
  16. Randle (2,667) and Barrett (2,511) ranked first and second in total minutes played. Barrett (192.3) and Randle (188.0) ranked first and second in total miles traveled.
  17. Rose shot 103-for-203 (50.7%) on pull-up 2-pointers, the sixth best mark among 64 players who attempted at least 150.
  18. Rose committed turnovers on just 3.5% of his drives, the third lowest rate among 115 players with at least 300 total drives.

Atlanta Hawks (41-31)

Pace: 98.7 (22)
OffRtg: 114.3 (9)
DefRtg: 112.1 (18)
NetRtg: +2.2 (11)

Regular season: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups

vs. New York: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups

Hawks notes – General:

  1. Were the league’s second most improved team, both in regard to winning percentage (+0.271) and point differential per 100 possessions (+9.6).
  2. Saw the league’s biggest drop in pace, from 103.3 possessions per 48 minutes (seventh) last season to 98.7 (22nd) this season.
  3. Had the league’s third best record (27-11) and its seventh best point differential per 100 possessions (+4.5) after March 1st, when Nate McMillan took over for Lloyd Pierce.
  4. Outscored their opponents by 2.8 points per game, the league’s biggest differential, at the free throw line.
  5. Were 37-8 (0.822, seventh best) after leading by double-digits and 10-26 (0.278, 12th best) after trailing by double-digits.

Hawks 2020-21 shot profile

 Area FGM FGA FG% Rank %FGA Rank
Restricted area 1,164 1,850 62.9% 20 29% 16
Other paint 557 1,286 43.3% 12 20% 6
Mid-range 321 745 43.1% 11 12% 18
Corner 3 210 533 39.4% 14 8% 22
Above-break 3 685 1,859 36.8% 9 30% 15

%FGA = Percentage of total field goal attempts

Hawks notes – Offense:

  1. Saw the league’s second biggest jump (+7.3) in points scored per 100 possessions, from 107.0 (25th) last season to 114.3 (ninth) this season.
  2. Only team that ranked in the top 10 in three of the four factors on offense (see below).
  3. Only team that ranked in the top five in both free throw percentage (81.2%, fifth) and free throw rate (27.8 attempts per 100 shots from the field, fourth).
  4. Lead the league with 8.3 points per game on put-backs.

Hawks four factors

 Own/Opp. eFG% Rank FTA Rate Rank TO% Rank OREB% Rank
Own 53.9% 16 0.278 4 13.3% 10 28.4% 6
Opponent 53.0% 6 0.237 10 12.4% 29 25.8% 9

eFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
FTA Rate = FTA/FGA
TO% = Turnovers per 100 possessions
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained

Hawks notes – Defense:

  1. Saw the league’s fourth biggest drop (-2.3) in points allowed per 100 possessions, from 114.4 (28th) last season to 112.1 (18th) this season. Had ranked in the bottom 10 for three straight years.
  2. Were one of three teams – the Lakers and Jazz were the others – that ranked in the top 10 in three of the four factors on defense (see above). Saw the league’s biggest drop in opponent free throw rate, from 30.3 attempts per 100 shots from the field (29th) last season to 23.7 (10th) this season. Also saw the league’s fourth biggest drop in opponent effective field goal percentage and its second biggest jump in defensive rebounding percentage.
  3. Saw the second biggest drop in opponent turnover rate, from 14.3% (15th) last season to 12.4% (29th) this season.
  4. Had the third biggest differential between their opponents’ field goal percentage in the paint (56.3%, 14th highest) and their opponents’ effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (50.0%, sixth lowest). Ranked third in opponent 3-point percentage (34.9%).
  5. Allowed 0.99 points per possession, the league’s third highest rate, on isolations.
  6. Ranked 30th in opponent free throw percentage (80.3%).

Hawks notes – Lineups:

  1. Played seven different wing combinations for at least 50 minutes alongside Trae Young, John Collins and Clint Capela. The best numbers among those seven lineups were those (+21.8 per 100 possessions) of the one that included Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kevin Huerter. That was +21.8 was the fourth best mark among 87 league-wide lineups that played at least 100 minutes together.
  2. The Hawks scored 13.8 more points per 100 possessions with Young on the floor (118.2) than they did with him off the floor (104.4). That was the second biggest on-off differential for offensive efficiency among 233 players who played at least 1,000 minutes for a single team.
  3. Capela was one of four players – Rudy Gobert, Jimmy Butler and Paul George were the others – who played at least 1,000 minutes, with an on-off differential of at least 4.5 points per 100 possessions on both ends of the floor. the Hawks were 4.7 per 100 better offensively and 5.0 per 100 better defensively with him on the floor than they were with him off the floor.
  4. Outscored their opponents by 6.6 points per 100 possessions in 1,067 minutes with Capela and Collins on the floor together, by 5.8 per 100 in 831 minutes with Capela on the floor without Collins, and by 1.6 per 100 in 781 minutes with Collins on the floor without Capela.

Hawks notes – Individuals:

  1. Bogdan Bogdanovic shot 101-for-204 (49.5%) from 3-point range in April and May, the best mark among 92 players with at least 100 attempts.
  2. Bogdanovic shot 43-for-79 (54.4%) on corner 3s, the third best mark among 60 players who attempted at least 75. Solomon Hill had the fifth worst mark (31.2%).
  3. Bogdanovic had free throw rate of 7.8 attempts per 100 shots from the field, the sixth lowest rate among 250 players with at least 300 field goal attempts. Kevin Huerter had the seventh lowest rate (8.8 per 100).
  4. Clint Capela led the league in rebounds per game (14.3), total rebounding percentage (23.0%) and offensive rebounding percentage (15.5%). He tied for fifth in double-doubles (48) and ranked third in defensive rebounding percentage (30.1%).
  5. Capela also ranked fourth in blocks per game (2.0). He defended 7.7 shots at the rim per game, fourth most in the league. The 52.8% that opponents shot at the rim when he was there to protect it was the 12th lowest mark among 72 players who defended at least 200 total.
  6. John Collins was one of three players (Jalen Brunson and Nikola Jokic were the others) to shoot 70% or better on at least 100 shots in the restricted area and 50% or better on at least 100 mid-range attempts.
  7. Collins (1.22) and Capela (1.20) ranked ninth and 11th, respectively in points per possession as a roll man among 37 players with at least 100 roll-man possessions, according to Synergy tracking.
  8. Danilo Gallinari ranked third in free throw percentage (92.5%).
  9. Gallinari had an effective field goal percentage of 62.6% in wins and just 41.6% in losses. That was the second biggest differential among 197 players with at least 150 field goal attempts in both wins and losses this season.
  10. De’Andre Hunter shot 48.4% from the field, up from 41.0% last season. That was the 12th biggest jump among 250 players with at least 200 field goal attempts in each of the last two seasons, though his effective field goal percentage jump (from 48.9% to 54.6%) was smaller, because he saw a drop in the percentage of his shots that came from 3-point range (from 44.5% to 38.3%).
  11. Onyeka Okongwu accounted for 68.8% of the Hawks’ blocks and 38.9% of their fouls while he was on the floor. Those were the seventh and second highest rates, respectively, among 362 players who played at least 500 minutes.
  12. Cam Reddish had an effective field goal percentage of 42.8%, the sixth worst mark among 286 players with at least 250 field goal attempts.
  13. Tony Snell shot 62-for-109 (56.9%) from 3-point range, the best mark in NBA history for a player with at least 100 3-point attempts. He saw the biggest jump in 3-point percentage (from 40.2%) among 202 players with at least 100 attempts in each of the last two seasons.
  14. Lou Williams shot 37-for-88 (42.0%) on pull-up 3s, the fifth best mark among 93 players who attempted at least 75.
  15. Trae Young ranked second in the league in assists (for the second straight season), averaging 9.4 per game. He led the league with 160 total assists on dunks and was the only player with at least 125 total assists to multiple teammates: 141 to Collins and 136 to Capela.
  16. Young led the league (for the second straight season) with 14.1 pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions per game. His 0.98 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball-handler ranked 14th among 43 players with at least 300 total ball-handler possessions.
  17. Among 27 players with at least 1,000 field goal attempts, Young ranked 23rd in effective field goal percentage (49.9%), but ninth in true shooting percentage (58.9%). Six other players in the Hawks’ rotation were more effective shooters from the field, but Young ranked ninth in free throw rate (49.1 attempts per 100 shots from the field) among 250 players with at least 300 field goal attempts and had the best free throw percentage (88.6%) among players in the top 25.

Regular season matchup

Knicks won season series, 3-0

Knicks 113, Hawks 108 (Jan. 4 @ Atlanta)

Knicks 123, Hawks 112 (Feb. 15 @ New York)

• Knicks 137, Hawks 127 (OT) (Apr. 21 @ New York)

Pace: 97.3 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes
New York OffRtg: 123.1 (2nd vs. Atlanta)
Atlanta OffRtg: 115.3 (7th vs. New York)

Total points scored, season series

Area NYK ATL Diff.
Restricted area 104 122 -18
Other paint 36 34 2
Total in paint 140 156 -16
Mid-range 42 28 14
3-point range 129 99 30
Total outside paint 171 127 44
Free throws 62 64 -2
Fast break points 22 30 -8
2nd chance points 44 41 3

Matchup notes:

  1. Only five Knicks (Julius Randle and RJ Barrett among them) and only five Hawks (including Trae Young, John Collins and Clint Capela) played in all three games. The first meeting took place before the Knicks acquired Derrick Rose, and the Hawks were without Bogdan Bogdanovic (missed the second game) or Danilo Gallinari (only played in the second game) for all three.
  2. The Hawks had second-half leads of 15, seven and 11 points in the three games, and all three were within five points in the last five minutes. The Knicks won the three fourth quarters by a combined score of 89-67 and scored 46 points on 32 clutch possessions (shooting 7-for-10 from 3-point range). The Hawks scored just 23 on 24 clutch possessions (4-for-14 from 3).
  3. The three games against the Hawks account for three of the 18 times the Knicks made more than half their shots. They had both the second highest effective field goal percentage (60.0%) and the second highest free throw rate (29.7 attempts per 100 shots from the field) against the Hawks this season. The two games in New York were two of the Knicks’ six most efficient offensive performances of the season. Their 19 3s on Apr. 21 were tied for their season high.
  4. Julius Randle had two of the four highest scoring games against the Hawks (44 and 40 points) this season, two of the four times in his career that he’s made more than five 3-pointers. His 37.3 points per game was the most for any player against the Hawks. Immanuel Quickley (69.0%) and Randle (68.5%) ranked ninth and 10th in effective field goal percentage (minimum 25 field goal attempts) against the Hawks this season. Elfrid Payton (35.9%) had the fifth worst mark among the 89 players with at least 25 field goal attempts against the Hawks.
  5. Capela’s nine offensive rebounds on Apr. 21 were the most for any player against the Knicks this season and his effective field goal percentage of 68.6% over the three games was the fourth best mark among 82 players with at least 25 field goal attempts against the Knicks. Collins had the eight best mark (66.3%), while Kevin Huerter (38.5%) and Young (38.8%) were on the other end of the list. Young (3-for-14) and Huerter (4-for-23) combined to shoot 7-for-37 (19%) from 3-point range over the three games.
  6. The Hawks still outscored the Knicks by 16 points in Young’s 106 minutes. But the Knicks were a plus-42 (114-72) in Young’s 40 minutes on the bench. The Knicks outscored the Hawks by 54 points in Quickley’s 71 minutes on the floor and were outscored by 28 points in his 78 minutes on the bench.
  7. Both Collins (56.7 partial possessions) and Capela (39.9) defended Randle a significant amount, and Randle shot well against both.
  8. Payton was the primary defender on Young, who shot 7-for-21 with that matchup.

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John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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