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The New York Knicks are on a very positive path, getting above .500 and looking to be a threat in the Eastern Conference. The Atlanta Hawks have had some trouble in recent weeks, but may be starting to turn the corner to make the sprint toward the postseason. Two teams still jockeying for playoff positioning take to the court in Atlanta Friday night. New York won the first meeting this season, 99-82 at home Feb. 23. Here’s a look at what to expect from both teams, plus our final score prediction on the game to help you make your NBA picks tonight.

New York Knicks (26-25) @ Atlanta Hawks (30-22), 7:30 p.m. ET

The Knicks are on a roll that wasn’t exactly expected when Mike D’Antoni abruptly resigned. But since that day, the Knicks have won eight of nine games, the latest a 108-86 rout of Orlando at home. New York has won two of its last three on the road, all under new coach Mike Woodson. The team has played strong defense over the last nine games, allowing 90 or more points just twice over that span after giving up 90 or more 31 times in 42 games under D’Antoni. The defense has improved to 12 th in the league in points allowed (95 ppg), though the team will have to adjust to losing Amare Stoudemire (back) for perhaps the rest of the regular season.

The Hawks had won four straight and six of seven – including the marathon four-overtime home win over Utah last week – but has dropped its last two games, 108-101 at Milwaukee and 98-77 at home vs. Chicago. Their recent success has entrenches Atlanta in the No. 6 playoff spot, one half game behind Indiana. Atlanta has won six of its last eight home games, but the two losses were to Eastern teams (Chicago and Boston). The Hawks rank fifth in the league in scoring defense (93 ppg), but has been an inconsistent 20 th in scoring offense (95 ppg) and is one of the weaker rebounding teams (41 rpg, 23 rd in the league).

The NBA odds list the Hawks as 3.5-point favorites with a total set at 186 points. Both teams have playoff positioning to fight for in this game. The Knicks haven’t been on the road much since Woodson took over, but they have been successful. Atlanta is licking its wounds after a blowout loss at home. New York will be challenged on the road without Stoudemire, but Carmelo Anthony has stepped up to carry some of the load. There is a pretty good chance that Atlanta will play some defense, so it may come down to whether Atlanta’s shots will fall at a comfortable clip. New York is playing better to its strengths and has been a little more consistent, so it will have a chance. Even without Stoudemire, New York is playing with enough confidence to eek out a win.

Final Score Prediction: Knicks 94, Hawks 93

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