Knicks' Recent Stretch Proves They Will Persevere for the Playoffs

The Knicks have had their injury concerns as of late, but their gritty performances show they aren’t letting up on their playoff positioning.
Mar 25, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) takes a shot against
Mar 25, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) takes a shot against / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

With the start of the NBA postseason under a month away, it doesn’t feel like everyone is on board yet with what the New York Knicks can be as a contender. 

Sure, the injury problems that have befallen the team since the end of January have been an immense cause of concern. The Knicks have been without Julius Randle since he hurt his shoulder on January 27th, and shortly after that, the ailments have seemed to pile up on a New York squad that has been dangling to its position within the top four of the Eastern Conference. 

For weeks, including heading into their west coast swing that featured trips to Sacramento, Golden State, and the defending champion Denver Nuggets, it seems like a lot of outsiders have been waiting for the Knicks’ floor to crash from beneath them. They’ve expected them to fall into the bottom half of the playoff seedings where contention dreams often go to die. 

Yet, that has not been the case. Despite the absences of key starters, the Knicks rode the wave of a tough February schedule to go 4-8 before going 6-3 in the first few weeks of March. Facing three of the toughest teams in the West on their trip, they went 3-1 with impressive wins over the Kings and Warriors to sit at 41-28 and still be in the mesh for the top 4 seeds in the Eastern Conference.

Jane Brunson has been the glue that holds everything together for the Knicks. One year removed from being an All-Star snub that was deemed to be overpaid, the point guard has had one of the best stat sheets of any player in the association. He’s averaging 27.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game, and has developed both his interior attack and three-point shooting skills with 47.5% and 40.2% shooting from the field and beyond the arc. 

In the Knicks three latest wins, Brunson posted back-to-back 40-point performances and shot no less than 46.7% from the field. He became the first Knick since Carmelo Anthony to accomplish that feat and the fourth alongside Bernard King and Patrick Ewing. With each game, he further centers himself into a special club of Knicks players that have the potential to lead their teams to the promised land. 

Moreover, a lot of these performances have come against the elite competition of the NBA. The Kings were slated 6th in the Western Conference and had one of the most efficient offenses to trade shots with. The Warriors are always a threat to light it up too with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and company, but not even the splash brothers could outwork Brunson and his boys. 

That is where the even bigger component to the Knicks success and ability to persevere comes from. In the same stretch since Randle and OG Anunoby have gone down, it’s been the team’s bench that continues to step up and carry the “next man” mentality. Despite increased minutes that in some cases span the entire game, the Knicks role players are contributing in all the important areas when some were concerned they would falter under pressure. 

Moving up into the lineup and outperforming his weight class is Josh Hart. The man whose last name signifies the spirit of the Knicks has been a top-3 scorer but his greater impact has come in crashing the boards in excess. He is averaging 8.1 rebounds on the season, tied for 29th best in the league, and in the month of March has seven games with at least 10 rebounds to go along with five games of double-digit scoring. 

Hart has also been the main source of the team’s energy in contested games. When he’s running the second unit, he has been the enforcer that creates turnovers, fights for the loose balls, pushes the pace and attacks the rim with gusto. If there is ever a time when the Knicks need a spark, they just need to turn to Josh Hart to flip the script and open up opportunities for the other players. 

That is where guys like Donte Divencenzo, Miles McBride and Bojan Bogdanovic come into play. Divencenzo, who holds one of the best three-point shooting percentages in the league, is the big hitter with an average of 3-4 makes per contest. He has also taken a point guard-like role in the offense which opens the floor for the other sharpshooters to thrive with him, especially Bogdanovic who has struggled at times to get comfortable with the Knicks system. 

What’s even better than the quality offense New York has received in their recent stretch? The defense that has suffocated opposing teams at one of the best rates in the association. In the last 10 games of March, the team has held opponents under 100 points in seven of them and beneath 93 in six games. They’ve kept teams to the ninth-lowest field goal percentage, second-lowest rebounding percentage and hold the eighth-best defensive rating in the same timeframe. 

What’s this all to say? It’s to exclaim that the Knicks will be fine to make it through the rest of the regular season. In fact, it should make fans feel good that they could withstand some blows should they happen in the postseason. 

Through the rest of the regular season calendar, the Knicks will face five foes with sub-.500 records in seven games, granting them a good chance to tease the 50-win mark which they haven’t done since the 2012-13 campaign. The rest will come against playoff ranked teams, meaning every game is valuable with the Eastern Conference standings tighter than ever.

Expect the Knicks to handle business in the final stretch and await the return of their key pieces in Randle, Anunoby and Mitchell Robinson for the newest playoff run. Sure, they need to get healthy if they want to threaten the big dogs like the Celtics and Bucks, and it’s going to happen soon. 

Even if one of those players has to step aside again, the Knicks have shown they have the depth to pack a second-string punch. Talent leads the way, but it’s the bench players that sometimes make the difference making plays. 

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