The New York Knicks, for all their ups and downs, currently sit 3 games out of first place in the Atlantic Division and the highly coveted number four seed that comes with it. They are also 2.5 games out of a seven seed and 5 games out of a six seed. Unfortunately, they also only hold a 1.5 game lead on the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. With 17 games left on their schedule, the time to make a move, up or down the standings, is now.
The next two weeks will make or break the New York Knicks season, starting tonight at home against Milwaukee who is the team which sits only 1.5 games behind them for the final playoff spot. Of the Knicks next seven games, five are against teams who will make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference and the last two are against teams right on the outside looking in (the Bucks tonight and Cleveland this Friday).Complicating matters is the health of Amare Stoudemire’s back. He is questionable for tonight’s game and there are rumors the injury could be more serious than the team is letting on. The Knicks are already without Jared Jeffries for the next two weeks so their depth behind Stoudemire is thin. Look for Josh Harrellson to receive extended work and hopefully pick up some the slack at least in terms of rebounding.
It will be on Carmelo Anthony to pull himself out of his shooting funk and carry a heavier load of the scoring if Stoudemire misses any time. This isn’t last season against Boston in the playoffs when Anthony will have to seemingly take every shot, as he does have capable scorers around him now but he still must lead the way on the offensive side of the court.
Tonight is a critical first step towards burying Milwaukee’s playoff hopes and getting after Philadelphia for the Atlantic Division crown. A loss tonight likely means scrapping with the Bucks for the eight seed the rest of the way and the Knicks don’t have the tiebreaker. This is the kind of game, particularly at home that a player like Carmelo Anthony cannot let the Knicks lose.
Considering their next seven games, tonight is about as close to a must win as it gets…with our without Amare Stoudemire.