Knicks Playoff Hopes on Life Support with Four to Play


Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

As if the road to the postseason wasn’t difficult enough for the New York Knicks to navigate, it’s gotten even tougher over the last couple of days. Currently, the Knicks are all but eliminated from postseason basketball and time is dwindling quickly.

On April 2nd, they managed to tie the Atlanta Hawks for the 8th and final playoff spot with an impressive thrashing of rival Brooklyn. In the two games since, the Knicks suffered a heartbreaking one-point loss to playoff-bound Washington at home and another defeat at the hands of conference leaders Miami.

The Hawks on the other hand, have turned around their recent struggles with two wins in a row over Philadelphia and second-seeded Indiana on the road. That puts Atlanta two games up on New York and three in the loss column.

New York’s playoff hopes sit on life support for multiple reasons. They’re running out of time with just four games to play and are playing three playoff teams on top of it. The Hawks have six remaining and are facing lesser competition while holding the tiebreaker over the Knicks, effectively ending their season barring something unforeseen. New York can’t just come back and tie the Hawks again; they must surpass them by a game in the standings.

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The Knickerbockers more than likely need to run the table in their final four games just to have an outside chance. It’s a goal that seems a bit lofty considering the competition. They play at Toronto, vs. Chicago, at Brooklyn and end the year at home against the division leading Raptors again. There is absolutely no room for error at all for this Knicks bunch. But say they’re able to somehow win all four games—the odds still aren’t in their favor when looking at Atlanta’s schedule and how little they need to do in order to hold the 8th spot.

The Hawks’ final six games feature home matchups with the Celtics, Pistons, Heat and Bobcats to go with road games at Brooklyn and Milwaukee. As you can see, that schedule is much lighter overall than the games New York has left to play. Even if the Knicks won all four, Atlanta would only need to play .500 ball (3-3) over their final six to hold onto their playoff spot.

The way it sits now, the Hawks’ magic number to make the playoffs is three. That means all Atlanta needs is  a combination of wins and Knicks losses to equal three to lock up the playoff spot. For example if the Knicks lose one of their games, the Hawks would only need to finish up 2-4 to get into the playoffs.

It would take somewhat of a miracle for the current circumstances to change and nobody should hold their breath waiting for it to happen. Things look bleak for the Knicks and their chances of making the playoffs have gone from slim to even slimmer over the past two games.

The Hawks looked destined to gift the spot to New York with treacherous play recently while the Knicks went on a hot streak winning 12 of 15 games before the defeat to Washington. The tables have since turned back and it looks very much like the Knicks will be giving the Denver Nuggets a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

There are more than a few games we could go back and point to that New York should’ve won. With the talent on the roster, there is no reason this team shouldn’t have a playoff spot in an extremely weak Eastern conference. The end result of this season—with New York missing the playoffs, will be a reflection of what they as a team deserve. The Knicks waited more than 60 games to play their best basketball and that’s not the recipe for success in the NBA.

There are still games for New York and Atlanta to play, but the Knicks’ playoff hopes are certainly on the verge of demise. This most disappointing 2013-14 season is ending just the way it looked like it would when New York was 21-40. Despite the run of good basketball the last few weeks it’s too little, too late for a Knicks team that will almost surely be watching the NBA playoffs from home.