While the Knicks took all three meetings with the Hawks this season, they are well aware that the playoffs present a different challenge.
Atlanta is a different team, turning the season around with a 25-11 run (entering the final night of the season) after a coaching change put Nate McMillan in charge.
It wasn’t just a coaching change, but also a matter of getting healthy.
Bogdan Bogdanovic was sidelined nine games into the season and didn’t return until after Lloyd Pierce was fired.
Clint Capela took on a huge role after McMillan took over, but the key remains containing Trae Young, an explosive offensive talent.
In the final meeting between the Knicks and Hawks, Young, who averaged 24.7 points against the Knicks, had 20 points before spraining his ankle, and his absence triggered a Knicks comeback.
"That means nothing going into the playoffs," Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said of the regular-season success against the Hawks. "So the regular season is the regular season. When you play those games, there are a lot of things that go into it. There could be players out. There could be travel involved. Now you’re at a zero base.
"We know how well they’re playing. They’ve gotten a lot better as the season has gone on. So we’re going to have to be ready. We’re going to have to play a 48-minute game."
Julius Randle averaged 37.3 points and 12.3 rebounds against Atlanta this season. RJ Barrett added 21.7 points per game against the Hawks.
Still, the Knicks aren’t thinking about that.
"Doesn’t matter," said Barrett, who will make his playoff debut in his second season in the league. "Playoffs are different. It’s going to be hard-fought. They’re going to give their best and we got to be ready."
Knicks beat Hawks, 3-0
January 4 at Atlanta: Knicks, 113-108
Feb. 15 at MSG: Knicks, 123-112
April 21 at MSG: Knicks, 137-127 (OT)