10 Keys for the New York Knicks Heading into the Playoffs
This win was extremely crucial because it put the Knicks two games ahead of the Bucks in the standings for the last spot in the playoffs.
If the season ended tomorrow the Knicks would face the Chicago Bulls in the first round, a team they were 1-3 against during the regular season.
Almost all of the games went right down to the wire, with only one of them being decided by more than five points.
Here are 10 keys for the Knicks if they want to make a deep run in the playoffs this season.
10. Steve Novak Must Knock Down Threes
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Steve Novak quickly became a fan favorite amongst Knicks' fans with his superb three-point shooting.
Every time he rises up to take a three, it looks like it’s going to go in.
The Knicks are going to need Novak to keep up his league leading 46 percent three-point shooting to get them back into games if they ever fall behind.
9. Toney Douglas Has to Find His Shooting Stroke
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With Jeremy Lin expected to miss the first round of the playoffs, Toney Douglas is going to get a lot of playing time backing up Baron Davis.
He probably doesn’t deserve it because of how poorly he is playing right now, but the Knicks don’t have anyone else to turn to at point guard since Mike Bibby is playing just as poorly.
He is still shooting a ridiculously low at 23 percent from three this season, so hopefully he is due to catch fire in the playoffs.
8. The Garden Needs to Be Rocking
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Defending your home court is essential to winning a playoff series.
This season the Knicks were 19-10 at home with an average attendance of 19,763, good for fifth in the league.
We can only hope that Carmelo Anthony and co. will bring us many instant classics during this year’s playoffs like Willis Reed and Patrick Ewing once did.
7. J.R. Smith Must Continue to Provide a Spark off the Bench
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J.R. Smith has proven he can create his own shot no matter who’s guarding him always has the confidence to do it.
Coach Woodson has also shown he trusts Smith late in games and had this to say after his clutch performance down the stretch during last night’s win.
"I’m a big believer in J.R.," Woodson said. "I told him that after the game. I'm in his corner and I'm going to do everything I can to see that he's successful for this ball club."
6. Baron Davis Needs to Keep His Turnovers to a Minimum
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Baron Davis has shown his ball handling skills haven’t faded with age, but he sometimes gets a little too wild.
This season he’s averaging five assists per game in only 20 minutes, but he’s also averaging 2.4 turnovers per game, which is just too many.
When Davis is controlling the offense and not giving the ball away, the Knicks are at their best.
5. Iman Shumpert Needs to Lock Down Opposing Team’s Best Guard
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This is what the Knicks drafted Iman Shumpert for.
Whatever he brings on offense is a nice bonus, but the Knicks brought Shumpert in to guard players like Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade during the playoffs.
Expect Shumpert to switch off between guarding the opposing point guards and shooting guards depending on which players are currently on the court.
4. Mike Woodson Has to Enforce Defense on Every Play
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The Knicks' effort on defense has clearly elevated since Mike Woodson took over as head coach for Mike D'Antoni.
Woodson was originally brought in as a defensive specialist, and he is now proving why.
The Knicks are currently playing some of the top defense in the league, letting up only 90.5 points per game during the last 10 games.
They will certainly need to keep up this stellar defense if they want any chance of winning a seven-game series.
3. STAT Needs to Be Healthy and Ready to Go
Even though the Knicks are a respectable 6-3 without Amar'e Stoudemire, they desperately need their star back and healthy by the time the playoffs start.
Carmelo Anthony has thrived on offense replacing STAT at power forward, but the team has struggled to get rebounds during these games.
Stoudemire has been quiet about when he might return to action, but the fact that he participated during yesterday's shootaround and was jumping and dunking before last night's game has to be a good sign that we may see him back in a Knicks uniform very soon.
2. Tyson Chandler Has to Keep Up His Stellar Interior Defense
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Tyson Chandler will definitely make the NBA's All-Defensive Team and be considered for Defensive Player of the Year with his dominant play on defense this season.
He is only averaging 1.5 blocks and 0.9 steals per game, but he alters numerous shots every game and really scares opposing players from taking the ball all the way to the hole.
Chandler's defense was one of the main reasons the Dallas Mavericks won the championship last season, and it will be just as important this season if the Knicks want to also make a run at the title.
1. Carmelo Anthony Has to Stay Hot
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Carmelo Anthony is the leader of this team and the Knicks will only go as far as he takes them.
I don't know if he's just amped up for the playoffs or if new coach Mike Woodson has inspired him somehow, but Melo has picked the perfect time of the season to heat up.
He is averaging 30 points per game over the last nine games and is hitting every clutch shot the Knicks need him to.
If he's still scoring at this rate during the playoffs, it will be hard for anyone to beat this team.