4 Things That Could Ruin the New York Knicks' Playoff Hopes

Adam Friedgood@AfriedgoodContributor IIIApril 10, 2012

4 Things That Could Ruin the New York Knicks' Playoff Hopes

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    After Sunday’s epic overtime 100-99 victory against the Chicago Bulls, things are looking good for coach Mike Woodson, Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks.

    Even with two of their starters sidelined with injuries, the Knicks have improved their record to 29-27, the same record as the Philadelphia 76ers, who were on top of the Atlantic Division for most of the season. If the season ended today, the Knicks would be the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference and square off with the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.

    Unfortunately, there are still 10 games left in the season and the seventh and ninth seeds in the conference are only separated by one game.

    If the Knicks don’t keep up their stellar play that has resulted in 11 wins over their last 14 games, there is still a chance they can fall short of making their second straight playoff appearance.

    Here are four situations that would ruin the Knicks' playoff hopes. 

Baron Davis Breaks Down from the Huge Workload

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    Since he still isn’t 100 percent recovered from his injury yet, coaches Mike D’Antoni and Mike Woodson have both been very careful with how often they've used backup point guard Baron Davis this season.

    Due to the injury to Jeremy Lin, though, Davis’ minutes have been way up as he’s been called on to fill in the starting role. Before Lin was sidelined, Davis was playing around 16 minutes per game and didn’t have any starts for the Knicks this season. Since, he has started all seven games that Lin has missed and is averaging around 27 minutes per game.   

    Last week it was reported that Davis was dealing with a swollen knee and tightness in his back, in addition to the hamstring injury that has kept him out for most of the season. If Davis needs to miss any games during this final stretch, the Knicks will be extremely thin at the point guard position. 

Amar’e Stouedmire Doesn’t Return Before the Season Ends

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    Even though the Knicks have still been winning without Amar’e Stoudemire, his return is imperative if the Knicks want to close out the season strong and make the playoffs.

    Originally it was reported he’d only be out 2-4 weeks with a bulging disk in his back, but it now appears he’ll be out much longer than that as tomorrow will be the two week mark and Mike Woodson still doesn’t seem optimistic about STAT’s return. Woodson had this to say to the New York Post over the weekend:

    “At this point, I’m not counting on Amar’e right now to come back,” Woodson said after yesterday’s practice, declining to give a new timetable. “You’ve got to ask the medical people that, but the bottom line is he’s not going to be in uniform for a while."

    Carmelo Anthony has done a great job of filling in at power forward with Stoudemire out, but the Knicks are going to need both of them playing at their best if they want to defeat the Chicago Bulls or Miami Heat in a seven-game series.

The Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers Catch Fire

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    Currently the Milwaukee Bucks are in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, only one game behind the Knicks and 76ers for the final two spots in the playoffs.

    With the closest team seven games behind this group, two of these teams are definitely going to make the playoffs and one team will most likely get left out (unless a team like the Orlando Magic or Boston Celtics has an epic collapse to end the season).

    The 76ers have by far the easiest schedule remaining out of the three teams. They still have three games remaining with the New Jersey Nets, as well as games against the Cavaliers and Pistons.

    The Knicks and Bucks both have similar schedules. They both have 10 games remaining—five against teams that will be in the playoffs, four against teams who won’t and the final game against each other. This game will prove to be very crucial and the team who wins it will definitely have the upper hand on who makes the playoffs. 

Carmelo Anthony Cools off

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    Carmelo Anthony has completely elevated his game in the absence of STAT and Lin and is the main reason the Knicks have been so dominant as of late.

    Over the past seven games, Anthony is scoring a ridiculous 29.8 points per game while shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor, 40 percent from three and 82 percent from the free throw line. All of these numbers are way above what he is currently averaging on the season. In his last game against the Chicago Bulls he even scored 43 points, his career high as a member of the Knicks.

    The most impressive part of Melo’s game recently has been his new enthusiasm for defense. Carmelo didn’t record a steal or a block in only one of the past seven games. This is a huge difference from the seven games prior to that where Melo only had one block in total.

    The Knicks need their leader to stay as hot as he is right now because if he starts to cool off, the Knicks can kiss this season and the playoffs goodbye.