I’m sure every NBA fan has had this moment in the last few weeks. For me, it happened about three weeks ago. I was scrolling through the NBA standings, looking up how many games each team had remaining, who each team plays and all that jazz. Then, BOOM, it hit me.
The Knicks might make the playoffs.
Due to the Eastern Conference’s overall sucky-ness, the New York Knicks are right in the thick of the playoff race. They’re 12 games under .500 and could still make the playoffs. It’s remarkable. It’s unbelieveable. But, it’s also real, and it could really happen.
The Knicks playoff chances just took a huge hit by losing the last two games, though, falling by one to the Washington Wiz Kids and wasting a monster J.R. Smith performance at Miami. And yet, with four games left in their season, the Knicks still aren’t dead yet. They’re like the wight walkers from Game of Thrones. The only thing that truly kills them is dragonglass, or, to keep with the metaphor, three wins by the Atlanta Hawks.
Right now, New York trails Atlanta by three games in the loss column. In order for the Knicks to jump Atlanta for the 8-seed, they’ll have to win their last four, and the Hawks will have to go 2-4 in their last six games. Unfortunately for the Knicks, the Hawks have games left against Detroit, Boston, and Milwaukee — almost automatic wins. But, fortunately for Knick fans, the Hawks also have games against Miami, Brooklyn, and Charlotte, all playoff teams ahead of the Atlanta. It’s not that unlikely the Hawks could lose four of those games. Think about it.
Atlanta could choke away this three-game lead because, as Atlanta GM Danny Ferry said, no one really cares if the Hawks make the playoffs or not. So, It comes down to the players. Do they want to make the playoffs, or do they want to start their vacation two weeks early? Who wouldn’t want an extra week of vacation? I mean, the Hawks will get demolished in the first round anyway.
Based on their win over Indiana on Sunday, the Atlanta-poops-the-bed scenario is looking worse and worse for Knick fans. But, because they’re the Knicks and it’s incredibly fun to speculate, KEEP PLAYING ALONG!
Let’s say the Knicks make the playoffs, and Knick Nation goes wild!
All right, so the Knicks have the 8-seed. That means they are squaring off with Miami or Indiana in the first round. You know who doesn’t give a rip they have to play the two heavily favored teams in the East? THE KNICKS!
Carmelo isn’t scared of Paul George or LeBron James at all. J.R. Smith isn’t scared of anyone Indiana has, and we just watched 40 minutes of no one on Miami coming close to stopping J.R., not even LeBron. Spike Lee is just happy to be watching playoff basketball that he might not even stand up and yell at the refs. The vibe is good in New York. Let’s review what happens next.
Scenario One: Miami wins out, locks up the one-seed, and meets New York in the first round
New York always plays well against Miami. Since the “Big 3” united in Miami, the Knicks are 8-3 against the Heat. How about them (big) apples? Everyone wants to knock the best, and the Knicks have enough talented players to compete with Miami when they’re properly motivated.
Like I touched upon earlier, Miami doesn’t have anyone who can guard J.R. Smith, Tim Hardaway, and Iman Shumpert when they’re “on” offensively. Ray Allen and Dwyane Wade can’t perform consistently with same energy level on defense they once had to keep up with the New York’s young gunners. That’s really the only advantage New York has against Miami.
Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudamire aren’t good enough offensively to force Miami to match-up with them. The Knicks size gives them a slight advantage on the glass, but Amar’e isn’t as athletic or as consistent as he was in his younger days. Plus, he settles for contested mid-range jumpers because he can’t get to the rim against smaller defenders. Miami definitely has the advantage here.
Defensively, New York has no chance of stopping Miami. LeBron is too good at creating shots and attacking the basket. The rest of the Heat are unselfish enough to work the ball around and break down the Knicks with ball movement. For the Knicks to win, Miami has to go ice-cold and New York has to catch fire, especially Shump, J.R., and Hardaway.
Scenario Two: Indiana passes Miami, snags the top seed, and faces off against the Knicks in a rematch of the 2013 Eastern Conference Semis
Is anyone still thinking Indiana can win a playoff series with the way their offense has played lately?
Definitely, not me. Theoretically, New York has a chance in a series with the Pacers.
Carmelo is a match-up problem for the Pacers. He can post-up Paul George, and he can take David West of the dribble. If Melo can get healthy, which is a huge” if” by the way, I like him in a series against the Pacers.
But, again, New York has so much trouble on defense it’s hard to see them being able to stop anyone. However, the Pacers failed to break 80 points in five out of six straight games only two short weeks ago. Can we trust them to beat anyone offensively? Again, the answer is no.
I can’t believe I’m actually writing about how the 33-win-Knicks have a chance against the Pacers. Trust me, I don’t really believe they have a chance, but shame on the Pacers for actually making me consider whether the Knicks have a chance in a playoff series against the Pacers. That’s on you, Larry Legend.
I know what you’re thinking, “Enough with the hypotheticals, Bryce, basketball expert, what is really going to happen?”
All right, here’s what I think will happen:
Like I said earlier, if it were me, I’m taking early vacation every time. I’ve got to think Atlanta will crumble in their next six games, which would mean by default, the Knicks make the playoffs! (Yay! New York!)
Then, because Indiana has been so abysmal offensively, Miami gets the one-seed and takes on the Knicks in the first round. Because they’re the Miami Heat, the only team in history with an actual on-off switch, LeBron and Co. will fail to show up to the first game in Miami, and New York will win in blowout fashion. The Knicks surprising blowout victory sparks a firestorm on ESPN with 47 hours of TV dedicated to “What’s Wrong with the Miami Heat?” and “Do the Knicks have a chance?” and “Is this the makings for the greatest upset in NBA playoff history?”
Before we know it, Carmelo’s ever-so-problematic shoulder injury flares up again, and LeBron leads Miami to three consecutive blowout wins. Game five is a little closer, and the Knicks actually try on defense, but eventually, Miami’s ball movement wears down the Knicks, and the Heat win a close game, knocking the Knicks out of the playoffs.
That’s the best-case scenario for the Knicks and their fans. Hopefully, they get a chance because players like Carmelo Anthony shouldn’t be sitting at home watching the playoffs on TV. But, because the world’s so cruel and I’m not really a basketball expert – I’m wrong most of the time, if you haven’t noticed – this is what will actually happen:
The Knicks will win their last four games. Atlanta will go 2-3 in their next five games with wins over Boston and Detroit and losses to Brooklyn, Miami, and Charlotte. The Knicks and Hawks will be even in heading into the last game of the season for the Hawks, a showdown with the… (drum roll, please)… the team with the NBA’s worst record, the Milwaukee Bucks. Knick fans will hope and pray the Bucks can muster up enough energy and points to pull off the upset, but in the end Atlanta will win by 30, finishing the season even with the Knicks at 37-45 and securing the eighth-seed by winning the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Knicks.
It can’t happen any other way for the Knicks this season. It’s just been that kind of year.
Keep your chin up, Knick fans! You’ve got Phil Jackson now, and you’ve got Carmelo Anthony… for now.