6 Teams New York Knicks Must Beat to Establish Dominance

Zach CampbellCorrespondent IMarch 16, 2012

6 Teams New York Knicks Must Beat to Establish Dominance

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    Big things are once again happening in Madison Square Garden.  The New York Knicks have been a headline machine this year and, despite a string of success generated by overnight hero Jeremy Lin, the Knicks still have a few more key wins to tally. 

    The Knicks' season has taken perhaps the most interesting trajectory of any NBA team this year.  From the arrival of stars Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony to the ascension of one Jeremy Lin to the most recent departure of coach Mike D'Antoni, the Knicks have done well to make a lot of noise in this 2011-2012 NBA season. 

    Still, a 19-24 record has a lot of fans left wanting.  The Knicks need to find a way to win a few big games in the second half of the season and must now do it behind interim head coach Mike Woodson.

    Right now, the Knicks are tied with the Milwaukee Bucks for eighth place in the NBA East.  The best way to get over the hump? Win a few big games.

    Here are six teams on the Knicks' schedule that they must beat to establish dominance in the NBA East. 

Orlando Magic

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    The world can continue to turn now that the Dwight Howard trade rumors have been put to sleep.  Dwight Howard is staying in Orlando which means that the Magic are still a threat night in and night out. 

    The Magic are currently third in the Eastern conference with a 28-16 record and have shown equal amounts of success at home and on the road. 

    Simply put, they can win in any environment. 

    Of course, it helps having all-universe center Dwight Howard anchoring the team both on offense and defense.  It also helps Howard having people like Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick and Hedo Turkoglu who are able to be productive to put up points and open up the lane.  

    The Knicks need to win-out against the Magic for the simple reason that they're one of the top teams in the conference and will continue to be as long as Superman is calling the Amway Center home.  

    Stop Howard and you stop the Magic.  Here's looking at you, Amar'e.  

Indiana Pacers

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    It's been a long time since Reggie Miller and Jermaine O'Neal had Indiana contending for and Eastern Conference title, but it seems as if the Pacers might indeed be back on track in 2012. 

    Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, Tyler Hansbrough and Paul George lead a young, energized Pacers unit that utilizes defense and solid rebounding to wear opposing teams down. 

    At 25-16, the Pacers currently hold the fifth spot in conference standings and, as it happens, will be squaring off against the Knicks tonight at the Garden. 

    It's a great opportunity for the Knicks to prove that they can grind it out and play a controlled game against a Pacers team that loves the half-court game. 

    It'll come down to New York's ability to stop forward Danny Granger from hitting his mark of 18 points per game and bottling up the human tower that is Roy Hibbert, who is not only a great rebounder but an impressive passer as well. 

    Indiana is on the rise and it would do well for New York to prove they can derail a team with the type of budding talent that the Pacers possess.

Boston Celtics

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    Just as the Red Sox and the Yankees will always be circled on the calendar, so too is a meet-up between the Knicks and the Celtics

    It's Boston versus New York, therefore it's eternally about more than just wins and losses. 

    The Celtics are declining, especially when you look at where they were just a few seasons ago.  It'll happen when your three marquee players are all in their mid-thirties. 

    Still, the Celtics are a solid team and as long as Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce all have fuel to burn, the green and white should not be taken lightly. 

    This is a matchup that will place a lot of emphasis on Jeremy Lin and Boston point guard Rajon Rondo.  Rondo is the proverbial match for the Celtics' offense.  If you shut down Rondo, The Celtics' offensive turbine has a hard time igniting.

    Regardless of how you break it down, though, this one is a battle from start to finish. 

    For the Knicks, this win would register emotionally as well as statistically.  The jump in the standings would be welcome, as would the bragging rights between two cities where love is never lost. 

    Sweeping the Celtics for the rest of the season would do a lot for the Knicks' claim as top dogs in the Atlantic Division. 

Philadelphia 76ers

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    It's simple: To have a shot at winning the Atlantic Division, the Knicks must win against the Philadelphia 76ers

    Philly is currently atop the division standings for the first time in a while, thanks to the excellent play of guard Lou Williams and forward Andre Iguodala. 

    The Allen Iverson era has long since passed in Philly, and this newest iteration of the 'Sixers is a far cry from the vehicle that "The Answer" pilot was back in the early 2000s. 

    This is a team built around distributing the ball and getting help from all over the floor.  You won't find anyone on the 'Sixers' roster throwing up 30 shots a game.  For the Knicks, that means playing solid team defense and making sure Lou Williams doesn't get into the lane. 

    Philadelphia doesn't play the most exciting brand of basketball in the NBA, but it's effective nonetheless.

    New York gets one more go at Philadelphia on March 21st when they travel to the Wells Fargo Center. The 76ers are used to winning at home, and if the Knicks want to make a wave in their division, they would do well to make sure that this is one home game the Philly crowd won't enjoy.

Chicago Bulls

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    After beating the Miami Heat the other night in Chicago, the Bulls currently hold the No. 1 spot in the NBA East. 

    That's saying something given that the Bulls managed to win without reigning MVP Derrick Rose

    The Knicks should be worried, though, as they play the Bulls on back-to-back nights in April, and there's no reason to think that Rose won't be 100 percent by that time. 

    Whether or not the Bulls have Rose in the lineup, they are capable of producing wins. 

    Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Tahj Gibson and Ronnie Brewer round out a lineup that is as athletic as it is gritty.

    What the Bulls seem to have a handle on is consistency.  Every player in their lineup has a clearly defined role and they stick to it.  This in turn allows Derrick Rose to do what he does best: dazzle. 

    Rose is one of the most talented players in the world, and all Jeremy Lin can do is try to keep him from knifing through the lane and shaking the backboard. 

    Chicago may not win the NBA Finals this year but they will make a deep playoff run.  The Knicks don't have a hope or prayer of doing the same unless they can find a way to stymie Chicago and contain Derrick Rose. 

    Taking the series against Chicago would be monumental for the Knicks.

Miami Heat

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    The Bulls are currently first place in the Eastern Conference, but when it comes down to winning big for the Knicks, you can't get any bigger than a W against the Miami Heat. 

    Love them or hate them, there's no denying the talent that the Heat have at their disposal. 

    On any given night, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade can simply fire up the engine to the most incredible fast-break machine in the game. 

    It's a lesson in physics, essentially.  Objects in motion tend to stay in motion and the same can be said of the Heat, once they decide to make it a transition game.  This is what makes the Heat such a dangerous team to line up against and it's something that the Knicks must be able to overcome.  

    Miami and New York square off for the last time on April 15th and the Knicks will be doing any and everything to improve their odds for success in the postseason.  

    It makes for a great matchup, as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony go all the way back to their high school days, and Chris Bosh and Amar'e Stoudemire will combat one another with very different styles of post play.  

    This could be a capstone win for the Knicks towards the end of the season.  The payoff would be huge and there's no telling what the impact of this win could do in terms of nudging New York up the standings with the postseason just coming into sight.  

    After such a roller coaster year in Manhattan, a late-season win against the Heat would announce to the rest of the NBA that the Knicks are indeed ready to play.