New York Knicks: 10 Predictions for Rest of Season

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistApril 6, 2012

New York Knicks: 10 Predictions for Rest of Season

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    The NBA is heating up, especially in New York where the Knicks find themselves engaged in a tight, albeit unnecessary, battle for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

    So, what happens next?

    A whole lot, as everything the Knicks do, or fail to do, from here on will impact not only their postseason chances, but their future direction as well.

    And while New York's future is anything but clear, there is at least one thing we know for sure: The ride to the finish line is going to be an eventful one.

Landry Fields Hits and Maintains His Stride

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    Landry Fields is an enigma wrapped in a question mark.

    Fields has a tendency to start games strong before fading down the stretch, a shortcoming that dates back to last season. However, it will be resolved by season's end.

    While the shooting guard is known to start games strong, he's also known for having one terrific quarter and remaining silent the other three, whichever ones they may be.

    Since the arrival of Carmelo Anthony, Fields' greatest downfall has been his inability to space the floor. He's used to a fast-paced offensive system, and isolation plays render him confounded off the ball.

    If the past two games are any indication though, Fields has found his niche alongside Anthony. He knows now to give the small forward room to work and camp out behind the arc for a potential drive-and-kick.

    That just leaves Fields' disappearing act and woes from the free-throw line (30 percent over the last two games). Those things will sort themselves out, though.

    Why? Because the sophomore has finally established an identity within an Anthony-led offense.

Knicks Won't Blow a Fourth-Quarter Lead for Remainder of Season

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    There are only 11 games left in the season, and it's unlikely the Knicks win them all, but don't expect any losses to come at the hands of a fourth-quarter collapse.

    It doesn't matter whether New York is ahead by one or 15 heading into the final period, the Knicks will not put the game back in the hands of their opponent.

    After the Knicks' embarrassing collapse against the Pacers, this team knows how vital playing an efficient fourth quarter is, regardless of how sizable their lead may be, and they're not going to forget that.

    New York's fourth quarter in Indiana was one to forget, and by the time all 66 games have been played, it will have been forgotten.

Toney Douglas Shines Under Mike Woodson

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    After spending a majority of the season watching from the sidelines, Toney Douglas has gotten some burn over the past few games.

    An injury to Jeremy Lin combined with Mike Bibby's less than adequate direction on the offensive end has provided Douglas with an opportunity to regain a spot in the rotation.

    And he's not going to waste it.

    Douglas posted 15 points, six assists and five rebounds in the Knicks' blowout win over the Orlando Magic Thursday night, a performance that will become a regularity the rest of the season.

    Mike Woodson prides himself on holding players accountable, and he'll inject a sense of discipline into Douglas that will have him playing like a true point guard.

    And don't expect Douglas to fall back into oblivion upon Lin's return. He has great anticipation on the defensive end, a strength that will soon render him a favorite of Woodson's.

New York Reaches 35 or More Wins

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    For the 10th time in the past 11 years, the Knicks have ensured they will not not win 40 games, but 35 is far from out of the question.

    While many had New York winning 40 or more amidst the lockout-shortened season, finishing off the year by going 7-4 or better will be quite an accomplishment for a team that has been through so much.

    All season long, the Knicks have been plagued by injuries and a lack of urgency. The injuries are still an issue, but the team has found a purpose under Mike Woodson.

    It hasn't always been easy to watch, and with seven of their last nine games against playoff-bound or potential playoff-bound teams, the road ahead is anything but smooth.

    That said, through commitment to defense and offensive fluidity, the Knicks will manage to end their season with an exclamation point. 

Knicks Win Atlantic Division

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    With 11 contests remaining, the Knicks find themselves trailing the Celtics for the Atlantic Division lead by three games, a deficit they will erase by the end of the season.

    New York has been a source of inconsistency and depletion all year long, but they will still find a way to put together a string of victories that pushes them past Boston in the standings.

    Is it bold? Yes. Is it ill-thought? Absolutely not.

    The Knicks, despite being injury-ridden, are surging. They've lost games—most notably against the Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers—but they have hardly look complacent.

    And let's not forget the Celtics' age. They're playing great basketball right now, but expect the rigors of the lockout-truncated schedule to catch up with them even more than it already has.  

    Sooner, rather than later, it will be Boston looking up at New York in the standings.

Jeremy Lin and Amar'e Stoudemire Return for Postseason

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    The statuses of Amar'e Stoudemire (back) and Jeremy Lin (knee) are up in the air, but expect both to return in time for the postseason.

    Stoudemire came to New York to help the Knicks not just make the playoffs, but win in the playoffs, and Lin will be itching to further prove his mettle.

    With so much at stake, neither Stoudemire or Lin are going to stand idly by as the Knicks attempt to make a postseason push.

    Depending on whether or not they are at 100 percent by the end of April, their return will either be a productive or painstaking reality.

Knicks Advance Through First Round of Playoffs

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    Here, the Knicks are slated to win the Atlantic Division, which means, they'll wind up facing either the Hawks, Magic or Pacers in the first round, three teams New York matches up extremely well against.

    The Knicks have won two out of three games this year versus both the Magic and Pacers and are 1-1 against the Hawks.

    Sans the meltdown against the Pacers, the Knicks have been playing inspired basketball on both ends of the floor. They have let up 100 points only three times in the past 12 games and played above .500 since the sidelining of both Jeremy Lin and Amar'e Stoudemire.

    It's unlikely to be a cakewalk, but with the Knicks exuding a sense of confidence we haven't seen from the team in a decade, the stage is set for New York to win a playoff series for the first time since the 2000-01 campaign. 

Carmelo Anthony Reaches His Full Potential

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    Perhaps it was the change in coach, or perhaps it was the New York media's incessant criticism, or perhaps Carmelo Anthony was simply tired of being the scapegoat for the Knicks' problems.

    Whatever the reason, Carmelo Anthony seems to have found himself, and not just on offense.

    While Anthony's shot has been falling more frequently as of late (49.6 percent over the past five games), he has also done an array of other things to help the Knicks win. He is passing, rebounding, defending and most importantly, leading.

    Anthony has always been a questionable leader, but he's slowly but surely reversing that stereotype under Mike Woodson. He is hustling up and down the floor and actually partaking in the type of dirty work—chasing loose balls, boxing out, etc...—he has avoided for nearly a decade.

    It has been a refreshing sight, and one that isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Steve Novak Finishes Season as NBA's Leading Three-Point Shooter

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    After hitting on three of six attempts from downtown on Thursday night, Steve Novak increased his three-point accuracy to a league-best 47.9 percent.

    Atop that category is where the sharp-shooter will stay.

    Novak has assumed a role no one believed he would. He has not only converted on the long-ball consistently but done it when it mattered most.

    The small forward has been a huge boost off the bench for the Knicks and is poised to become the second player in team history to lead the NBA in three-point shooting percentage.

    That's not too shabby for a guy who began the year by being released from a Spurs team notorious for bringing out the best in all its players.

Knicks Stumble in Eastern Conference Semifinals

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    While the Knicks will make it out of the first round, that's as far as they'll go.

    New York has enough talent to make a serious postseason push, but the tasks of remaining consistent and re-integrating Amar'e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin into the rotation are ones that will impede the team from moving beyond the second round.

    The Miami Heat or Chicago Bulls will potentially be waiting for the Knicks in the semifinals. While it will become clear New York is headed in the right direction by the end of the season, they simply don't have the necessary chemistry yet to contend with either team over a seven-game series.

    The Knicks and their fans have a deep postseason run on the brain after New York advances through the first round, but, for this season at least, such a run is simply not in the cards.