When the New York Knicks flew west, I really thought they would have to win four out of five games remain in the race for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern conference. The Knicks finished their trip strong but settled for a 3-2 mark with a couple of clunkers thrown in there.
Luckily, I was wrong thanks to the ineptitude of the Atlanta Hawks. The Knickerbockers have returned home a game and-a-half better closer than when they began in Los Angeles on March 25th. Atlanta has won just one of four games since that time.
Now just a game behind the reeling Hawks (two in loss column), New York is heading down the home stretch of the 2013-14 season. That brings sighs of relief all over Knicksland as this nightmare of a season draws near a close, but they still have something to play for. Finding a way to make the playoffs would salvage something from the season and be a positive way to end a year that’s largely been so disappointing.
With that said, it won’t be easy for the Knicks; their schedule doesn’t feature any soft spots as it winds down. Each of their five opponents is currently in playoff position with something to play for in their own right. The final seven games are as follows: vs. Nets, vs. Wizards, at Miami, at Toronto, vs. Bulls, at Brooklyn and vs. Toronto.
In order to sneak in, New York will need continued cooperation from Atlanta, who has nine games remaining. They must go through some of the same teams as the Knicks, but also have matchups with weaker opponents like Cleveland, Boston and Milwaukee. The Hawks still control their own destiny and with any kind of consistency towards the end will hold off the Knicks.
If New York does manage to get even closer to the 8th spot and/or somehow make it into the playoffs, it will have been earned down the stretch. They’ve taken nights off and still played some mediocre basketball, but played better in March and have mostly taken care of business as of late.
Let’s see a little heart from the Knicks; let’s see what they’re made of. The critique of a weak schedule now halts as New York plays seven challenging games that stand between them and the playoffs. A team that makes a run here and at least plays good basketball whether they get in or not, is the type of team Phil Jackson signed up to try and resurrect. Not a team that dies out right at the end when the pressure reaches its peak.
The Knicks managed to survive their west coach trip and are still alive in the hunt for the playoffs. Throughout most of the season we’ve seen a lack of competitive spirit and fight from this team although lately things have looked upward. We’re going to find out over these last two weeks just how much fight, if any, this team has left in them.
HOW KNICKS GET IN:
Using the most realistic scenario, if NY goes 5-2 they end with a record of 37-45. They would need ATL to go 4-5 in their final nine, to end the season 36-46. Due to their schedule, it’s hard to expect the Hawks to go 3-6 or 2-7 here, but I guess anything is possible. No matter what, the Knicks can’t afford to lose games or for ATL to finish the final nine games 5-4 or better. That would require the Knicks to go at least 6-1 to close out the year, which is an extremely lofty goal.