There are 11 games left in the one of the most bizarre seasons in New York Knicks history and we are no closer to knowing whether they will miss playoffs, sneak in as a seven or eight seed or possibly steal the Atlantic Division title and the four seed that comes with it.
The next six games should teach us all we need to know about this version of the Knicks, the one without Jeremy Lin and Amare Stoudemire. The one who is dangerously reliant on steady play from Baron Davis and JR Smith, and the one who needs Carmelo Anthony to be every bit the franchise player he claims to be.
Tomorrow it is the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden, with Derrick Rose likely returning from an extended layoff because of a groin injury and then Tuesday it will be the Bulls again but in the United Center. The Knicks need a split, not just for their playoff positioning but for their confidence if they get Chicago in the first round. Logically, tomorrow is the best chance to steal one when they could feed off the crowd energy and Rose is shaking off the cobwebs from his absence.
After the home and home with Chicago, the Knicks play Milwaukee on the road who is right behind them for the 8 seed. Simply put, this is a must win. They will likely be about even in the standings prior to this game and currently the Bucks have a 2-1 season series lead.
Following Milwaukee, the Knicks have a three game homestand against the lowly Wizards, the Heat and the Celtics. If the Knicks have any aspirations of grabbing the four seed, they must beat Boston in their building. A win against Miami would also be important for confidence in case the Knicks get them in the first round.
At a minimum, the Knicks must come through these next 6 games with a 4-2 record. You can tolerate a split with Chicago and a loss to Miami but they have to handle business against the Bucks and Celtics.
I still firmly believe the Knicks are a dangerous team in the playoffs because of their renewed commitment to defense, Carmelo Anthony, and their outside shooting. If Stoudemire or Lin return, it is an added bonus but it is the defense that truly makes them a threat. Tyson Chandler deserve the Defensive Player of the Year award for leading the turnaround on a team that has been allergic to defense since the days of Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason. It would be a damn shame to give the award to clown Dwight Howard as his team slowly tanks around his lack of character and idiocy.
This has been such a bizarre season, that you wouldn’t be surprised if the Knicks finished 9-2 or 2-9. The sprint to the finish line starts tomorrow when Madison Square Garden should be rocking like a playoff game.