Christmas is always one of the most anticipated days of the year and that sentiment also proves true when it comes to the NBA calendar.
This year’s five-game slate is loaded with mouth-watering matchups and should serve up some memorable moments for families venturing out to the arenas or watching along at home.
Our first matchup of the day will take place at Madison Square Garden, where the New York Knicks will host the Atlanta Hawks in an Eastern Conference postseason rematch from a year ago.
After Trae Young‘s impressive play ended the Knicks’ season in five games last June, something tells me there will be more Christmas jeer than cheer coming his way from the Garden faithful.
Let’s dig into this great matchup with our Hawks vs Knicks predictions and best bets.
All NBA gameday odds are courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook and current as of 10:30 a.m. ET on Friday, December 24.
Hawks vs Knicks Game Pick
After meeting in the postseason last year as the four and five seeds respectively in the Eastern Conference, the Knicks and the Hawks entered the 2021-22 campaign with lofty expectations. So far, both teams have underperformed.
The Knicks, presumed to be improved by the offseason additions of Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker, won five of their first six games. However, Tom Thibodeau‘s train has recently run off the tracks.
New York has already encountered a myriad of problems this season, including a recent COVID-19 outbreak, but the Knicks have also been hampered by the three-point shooting regression from stars Julius Randle and R.J. Barrett.
That three-point regression has also worked against New York on the defensive end. After holding opponents a league-best 33.7% from behind the arc last season, the Knicks have allowed opponents to connect at a 35.4% clip through their first 32 games, ranking in the bottom half of the NBA in that category.
On top of that, Walker has really struggled to assimilate into the Knicks’ lineup (especially when playing alongside another high-usage player in Randle), which led to Thibodeau taking the drastic measure of removing him from the rotation entirely earlier this month.
Although Walker has since returned to the rotation, mostly out of necessity due to COVID-related absences, he’s still struggled to help lead the Knicks to much success. Even his season-high 44-point outing on Thursday night resulted in a 124-117 home loss to a Wizards squad without Bradley Beal.
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On the other side, the Hawks have been one of the streakier teams in the NBA. Atlanta lost eight of its first 11 games — including six straight against elite competition — but then rattled off seven consecutive wins before losing 99-90 to the Knicks in the teams’ lone meeting so far this season.
As you’d expect, Trae Young continues to lead the way for the Hawks on offense, averaging over 26 points and nearly 10 assists per contest. Forward John Collins is continuing his impressive development and is quickly becoming a dependable second option for Atlanta every single night.
To supplement those two offensive threats, the Hawks have a talented and deep rotation that features sharpshooters like Kevin Huerter and Bogdan Bogdanovic, a post protector and rim runner in Clint Capela, and some versatile wings in former Knick Danilo Gallinari and Cam Reddish.
Atlanta has also recently been hit a COVID-19 outbreak, however, so it’s hard to know exactly who is going to be available for Christmas Day.
As of Friday, Young, Gallinari, Capela, Huerter, Lou Williams, Sharife Cooper, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot are currently in the health and safety protocols for the Hawks. Meanwhile, the Knicks are currently without Immanuel Quickley, Nerlens Noel, Kevin Knox, and Miles McBride after Barrett, Quentin Grimes, and Obi Toppin cleared protocols.
While I was originally leaning towards picking Atlanta if both teams were at full strength, the Knicks are looking like the healthier side at the moment and could be gifted some Christmas Day revenge in this one.
Hawks vs Knicks Christmas Prediction: Knicks 99, Hawks 95
Hawks vs Knicks Christmas Betting Picks
Best Bet: Knicks Moneyline (-220) at Caesars
Wager: 1 Unit
When these two teams met the weekend after Thanksgiving, the Hawks were 7.5-point home favorites and lost outright to the Knicks by nine. Given all of Atlanta’s potential absences for this contest, New York has opened up as 5.5-point favorites.
I’m still not comfortable laying that given what I’ve seen from the Knicks of late, though getting Barrett back in the lineup should be a big help. The Hawks did also just upset the 76ers on the road Thursday night without Young, Capela, and others.
If those guys are able to clear protocols in time to play, you’re going to want to jump on Atlanta as quickly as possible. But as things stand, the Knicks’ rotation should be in better shape and they should be able to get their revenge on the Hawks with the home crowd behind them.
Back the Knicks as your Christmas Day NBA pick of the day.
Best Bet: Under 211.5 Total Points (-110) at Caesars
Wager: 2 Units
Christmas Day unders have been the gift that keeps on giving for NBA bettors in recent years. That has especially been true in the early-window games, as the matinee start time throws off the routines of many players.
The first meeting between these two teams had a total of 216.5 points, per our NBA gameday odds, and went way under. With a lot of high-quality players set to miss out for Atlanta, I’m not sure how they keep pace on the scoreboard.
Obviously Young’s availability would be key in the total as the Hawks are a more dynamic offensive team with him at the controls, but as things stand I’m comfortable with this under down to 208.5.