The New York Knicks are in the thick of a playoff race for the eighth and final spot, and last night their dominant win over their cross town rival Brooklyn Nets sent a statement to the Atlanta Hawks that they are not going anywhere. After the Hawks lost last night, New York finds themselves one game back in the loss column, a huge difference from only a night ago. Currently, New York is slotted in the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference; if the season ended today they would be in. Only, they have played two more games than Atlanta, so Atlanta has more chances to overtake them. For the Knicks though, last night’s dominant win over the Brooklyn Nets sent a statement that they will not go quietly into the night, and if they keep playing with the same playoff style intensity, their season just might last a little longer.
The Atlanta Hawks are not playing good basketball right now. At the most crucial time in the season they are playing poorly and can barely string together back-to-back wins. They are 1-7 in their last eight games, and their only win came against the Philadelphia 76ers who were trying to set all-time lows for a team. Lucky for them, besides games against Indian, Miami and Brooklyn, their schedule is very easy the rest of the way, and even playing this poorly they should be able to win five of their last eight games. The Knicks on the other hand, have a much more difficult remainder of their season as they face only playoff teams.
Last night’s win was not only big for New York because of the standing, but it was big for the team’s morale too. They performed as a unit, buckled down to play solid defense, rebounded, and they hit their shots. After Carmelo Anthony shot a technical free-throw to start the second half, New York found themselves up 64-38, stoutly in control. New York of old would have squandered this lead and been stuck to fight for a win they should have had secured. Last night was a new, New York team. After a bad third quarter for both teams, the Knicks played with passion, looking to make a playoff-worthy statement as they dominated the Brooklyn Nets the rest of the way, getting the win and moving into the final playoff spot.
New York has been one of the most up and down teams in the league this year. They have been involved in 20 games that were decided by 20 points or more; they have won 10 of them, and lost 10 of them. No other team in the league has experienced that disparity. They have lost nine games in a row and won seven games in a row. If New York wants to keep their roll going they will have to keep playing the way they have of late, no matter what Atlanta does. They have home games left against the Wizards, Bulls and Raptors. The Bulls and Raptors are in a heated battle for third and fourth place in the Eastern Conference. They will not rest their players and they will not let up. New York also plays Toronto on the road, as well as Miami and Brooklyn. Miami is playing like a championship team again and New York faces them this Sunday in a possible preview of their first round matchup. A win in Miami would go a long way for New York as Chicago, Toronto and Brooklyn have the three best records in the East since January, and those are the last teams New York plays; the only silver lining is their last two games are against Brooklyn, who may be resting their veterans for the playoffs, and Toronto, who may have the third or fourth spot secured and also rest some players.
It is by no means a cake walk for the Knicks to get in. They will have to beat the best teams in the Eastern Conference, just for the honor of playing either Miami or Indiana in the first round; it is not pretty. But they have proven to be an up and down team, and they look to be on the upswing right now. They have held opponents to 84, 83, and 81 points the last three games and shot 45, 53 and 46 percent as a team. Last night the Knicks made a statement at Brooklyn’s expense, and showed in a dominant way that they can perform at a playoff level when working as a team; they will have to keep playing that way if any big statements are to be made.