The New York Knicks beat the Utah Jazz last night, 92-83 and remain one game behind the Atlanta Hawks for the eighth and final playoff spot. Last night marked only the second time this season that New York has won a game after trailing at halftime. With just under four minutes remaining in the third, the game was tied at 67, but it was all New York after that as their defense tightened up and their shots began to fall, leading them to the victory. If the New York Knicks want to make the playoffs, this is how they will have to play, because mathematically they can get in, but are barely clinging on at this point.
New York has only seven games left and they are all against playoff teams. Charlotte is five games up in the loss column and Washington is seven, basically locking up the sixth and seventh spots in the Eastern Conference respectively. The only team New York can pass is Atlanta. The Hawks are one game up in the eighth seed, but two games up in the loss column. Atlanta has nine games left and only four of them are against teams with a better than .500 average. They have not played great basketball of late, only winning 4 of their last 10 games, but the two game cushion in the loss column could make all the difference.
Atlanta plays only three road games the rest of the way, which is good for them, because they only win about 29% of their games on the road. Those games are against Indiana, Brooklyn and Milwaukee. It is pretty safe to say they will come away 1-2 in those road games. At home, Atlanta plays much better, winning 60 percent of their games. They will play Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Boston, Miami, and Charlotte. Considering they have beaten Charlotte all three times they have faced one another, and they do it again, that is a home record of 4-2 to finish the season, making them 5-4 in their remaining nine games. The New York Knicks own the tie-breaker if they can tie with Atlanta, but they are clinging on and how they will have to finish is 5-2 if they want to make the playoffs.
New York plays four games at home and three on the road to finish the season; they win about 42 percent of their games whether they are on the road or home. Their schedule for the rest of this season is as follows: Brooklyn, Washington, at Miami, at Toronto, Chicago, at Brooklyn, and Toronto. New York has a habit of losing to Chicago when they need a win, and assuming they find a way to split with the red-hot Brooklyn Nets, they look to finish 4-3, and that is giving them two wins against Toronto, who they have not beaten this season.
If these scenarios hold true, the Atlanta Hawks will squeeze into the playoffs, one game up in the eighth spot. There is still a lot of basketball to be played and New York could catch some breaks, but it will not be easy considering all their remaining games are against playoff teams; they are 1-2 against Miami and Chicago, so they could maybe steal one of those, especially if Dwyane Wade does not play and Miami’s lead over Indiana starts to grow. Phil Jackson can not save them, his work starts next season. They have to play tough defense, reduce turnovers and hit their three pointers, like they did last year when they were the second overall seed. How the New York Knicks play the next seven games will determine their season, and if they can come together and play like a playoff team, then they can make the playoffs. If they can not, they will be on the outside looking in.
Opinion by Chris Dragicevich