This is the most important question in all of Knicksland.
It supersedes every other postulate:
Q. Will Amar'e Stoudemire be back before the end of the season?
A. It doesn't make a difference. He won't be in game shape and will have little impact down the stretch. In fact, he may hinder the progression of the current lineup.
Q. Will Jeremy Lin be back for the second round?
A. Please, make the playoffs first. That is not a given. They're just a game up on the Bucks, who refuse to heel.
Q. Will the Knicks lock up the seventh or eighth seed?
A. Who wants that? It doesn't matter that the Knicks beat the Bulls Sunday. They don't want to face Chicago or Miami in seven (or four).
Earlier on, just a few weeks ago, it was the 76ers the Knicks were chasing, but Philadelphia has fallen. The Sixers were 25-17 on March 11. The Knicks were 18-23.
Today? They're tied at 29-27, three games behind Boston.
Back on March 11, the Celts were 21-19. They've gone 11-3 since for a memorable playoff push.
How much gas is left in Boston’s tank?
Can the Knicks catch the Celts?
Here’s the nitty-gritty.
The short answer is "no," just by the numbers—three games out with 10 to play is a tall order. For instance, if the Celtics go 5-5, the Knicks will have to go at least 8-2 (or 9-1 to avoid a tiebreaker).
However, the long answer is “it is within the realm of possibility.”
The Knicks have gone 8-2 several times this season, and it is conceivable they could do it down the stretch here.
Assuming New York drops the second half of the home-and-home against Chicago Tuesday, and the Miami game next Sunday, then the Knicks must of course beat Boston and these remaining teams in between: Milwaukee Bucks, Washington Wizards, New Jersey Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers and Charlotte Bobcats.
Those are some bad-ass teams in there for the most part (and I don’t mean badass). The Hawks and Clippers will be tough, though, but can be beaten.
And admittedly, there’s so much else going on with injury and fatigue, but it is doable, and the Knicks are hot, 11-3 themselves under Mike Woodson.
What about the Celtics? They have a tough road to 5-5, actually, but that record or better is within their grasp for sure.
Say they lose to the Knicks. They have to also face both Miami and Atlanta, twice each. Throw in Orlando, who might wake up to realize it doesn’t want Miami in the first round, and perhaps even a Milwaukee Bucks team fighting for a playoff spot in the final game of the season (with the Sixers flailing).
Will the Celtics lose five of those seven games? Maybe. They’ll likely beat the Raptors, Nets and Bobcats—but there’s a caveat. These three games are all on the road—and a back-to-back-to-back.
Do the geezers have what it takes to sweep that?
One thing is for certain: It is going to be a very interesting final 10 games in the East, especially after the mettle Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks showed against Derrick Rose and the Bulls on Sunday.
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