5 Critical Games Knicks Must Win To Gain Confidence for Playoffs

Adam Friedgood@AfriedgoodContributor IIIMarch 26, 2012

5 Critical Games Knicks Must Win To Gain Confidence for Playoffs

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    What a crazy season it has been for the New York Knicks.

    They’ve had two stretches so far where they lost six games in a row, but have also had seven-game and five-game winning streaks this season.

    The Knicks were seven games under 500. in early February and then climbed all the way back to have an even 500. record. They then went on another losing streak to go six games under 500. and are now 24-25 after winning six of their last seven games.

    The Knicks have proven they have the talent to defeat some of the better teams in the league, including the Pacers, 76ers and Lakers, but they should have no confidence that they can sustain their winning ways for any long stretch of time due to their inconsistency all year.   

    Here are five critical games that the Knicks must win in order to gain confidence for the playoffs. 

Knicks vs. Bucks, March 26

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    Previous Matchups: January 20 at Home, 86-100 L

    March 9 on Road, 114-119 L

    The Milwaukee Bucks are currently in ninth place in the East, only 1.5 games behind the Knicks for the last spot in the playoffs. That makes this game extremely important for both teams.

    The Bucks beat the Knicks twice already this season, but they really shook up their roster during the trade deadline, forming one of the best backcourts in the NBA in Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. However, they left themselves with very little height. Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler should be able to expose this and earn the Knicks' seventh victory in eight games.

    A win in this game should definitely give the Knicks a little boost of confidence since it will mean they have succeeded the first time they are playing in a game they MUST win. 

Knicks @ Pacers, April 3

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    Previous Matchups: March 16 at Home, 115-100 W

    March 17 on Road, 102-88 W

    You know the Pacers will be out for revenge since the Knicks embarrassed them during their home-and-home earlier this month.

    The Knicks used very balanced scoring to defeat the Pacers in these games. In the first game, an astounding 12 players on the Knicks scored at least three points. Tyson Chandler and J.R. Smith both scored 16 points, which was the most by any player on the team in this game. 

    The second game brought more of the same with 10 players scoring at least five points and again, no one on the Knicks hit the 20-point mark. Jeremy Lin was the leading scorer this game with only 19 points.

    If the Knicks stick to this new, balanced system that Mike Woodson has established, they should sweep the season series with the 28-19 Pacers with ease. 

Knicks @ Bulls, April 10

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    Previous Matchups: February 2 at Home, 102-105 L

    March 12 on Road, 99-104 L

    The Knicks have fought hard in their two games against the Bulls this season, but have fallen short in both of them.

    The first game was back when Iman Shumpert and Landry Fields used to start together. Neither players were really a point guard and Derrick Rose made them pay for this with a phenomenal 32 points and 13 assists.

    The second game was the final game of the Knicks' latest six-game losing streak, as well as the final game Mike D’Antoni would be the head coach for the Knicks. It was more dominant play by Rose, who again scored 32 points.  

    If Mike Woodson can come up with a scheme that allows the Knicks to finally get over the hump against the Bulls, it should really give the team confidence that they can do damage in the playoffs this season.

Knicks vs. Heat, April 15

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    Previous Matchups: January 27 on Road, 89-99 L

    February 23 on Road, 88-102 L

    The most anticipated game of the season was spoiled when Carmelo Anthony needed to sit out of the first Knicks/Heat game of the season with a wrist and ankle injury. The Knicks hung in it for most of the game, but ultimately The Big Three took advantage of Melo's absence and cruised past the short-handed Knicks for the 10-point victory.

    The second game finally saw the Knicks at full strength, but the result was even worse than the first time around. The Big Three went to work once again. This time Chris Bosh led the charge with 25 points and Lebron James neared a triple-double with 20 points, nine rebounds and right assists.  

    When the Heat finally come to the Garden, major adjustments must be made by new head coach, Mike Woodson. Just like the Bulls game, a win versus the Heat shows the rest of the league that the Knicks have it in them to make a serious run at a title this season. 

Knicks vs. Celtics, April 17

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    Previous Matchups: December 25 at Home, 106-104 W

    February 3 on Road, 89-91 L

    March 4 on Road, 111-115 L

    The Knicks are desperately trying to win the Atlantic Division for the first time since 1994. Currently, they are in third place in the division—3.5 games behind the first place 76ers and 1.5 games behind the second place Celtics. This will be a very critical game since the Knicks already completed their season series with Philadelphia.

    Every game between the Knicks and Celtics this season has been a close one. In fact, the most exciting game of the entire season was probably when the Knicks and Celtics battled on Christmas Day. Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks that day with 37 points, 17 of them coming in the fourth quarter.  

    If the Knicks can somehow pull off this win and then go on to win the Atlantic Division, they should have all the confidence in the world that they are a legitimate threat to defeat any team in the Eastern Conference in the playoffs.