10 Teams New York Knicks Must Sweep in 2012-13
Sweeping a series, whether it’s a weekend at Yankee Stadium, an NFC East rivalry, a home-and-home in the NHL or a four-game schedule against the Charlotte Bobcats is tough to pull off much of the time, no matter the sport, and usually no matter the disparity between teams.
In the NBA, especially with that lopsided home-court advantage, you never know what final result might pop up on the scoreboard. A four-game sweep of any team, even the Toronto Raptors, is a daunting task.
Certainly for the New York Knicks it is. They went 2-2 against the 23-43 Raptors in 2011-12.
Toronto's not one of the teams the Knicks will sweep in 2012-13, either.
The 10 teams you are about to see are some of the worst in today’s NBA. On paper, the New York Knicks should sweep them all. Reality, though, usually has a different plan.
There are too many variables—injury, back-to-back games, fatigue, food poisoning, a lumpy away hotel bed—for New York to go 30-0 here. That is not going to happen.
The Knicks went 17-9 against these 10 teams last year. The Boston Celtics, who really hit a road bump midseason, went 17-7. The Champion Miami Heat went 18-5. The No. 1 seeded Chicago Bulls won almost half their games against them, going 21-4.
So, to keep pace with the best teams in the Eastern Conference, clearly the Knicks must beat these teams as much as possible. They swept just three of them last year.
To get to the next level, the Knicks must sweep more than half of them—six of the 10—at least, and either tie or take the season series from the other four. That would put the Knicks at somewhere in between those Heat and Bulls percentages. Good enough for me.
Mark your calendars for these games and don’t discount their importance in the big postseason picture.
Here are, briefly, the four teams the Knicks would really like to sweep but won’t, followed by the six they must and will.
Heck, sweep them all and that just might help clinch the No. 1 seed.
Toronto Raptors (4 Games) and Washington Wizards: (4 Games)
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Despite their annual overall poor performance, Toronto gives everyone in the Atlantic trouble. The Knicks, Celtics and Nets all lost twice to the Raptors last season.
And Toronto has improved some this offseason picking up Kyle Lowry, moving Andrea Bargnani to forward and making room for Jonas Valanciunas at center.
It will be challenging to beat the Raptors all four games in 2012-13, as it usually is to sweep them.
The Knicks actually swept the Washington Wizards last season, three games to none.
But the Wizards are ready to break out a bit this year. They've got John Wall of course. And suddenly, Nene Hilario, Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor, too.
Their bench is terrible, though, and they'll win somewhere in the 30's.
Still, it will be tough to take this new lineup four games to none.
Detroit Pistons (4 Games) and Sacramento Kings: (2 Games)
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The Knicks swept the Detroit Pistons last season, too, and as with the Wizards, there probably won't be a repeat occurrence. The Pistons are charged up.
They have a solid starting five, all of whom are returning. Four of those starters—Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince—are capable of each scoring over 1,000 points.
New York will not make it seven in a row against Detroit. The Pistons will win at least one game of the four-game series.
And one more team the Knicks swept last year, the Sacramento Kings 2-0, will turn the tables in 2012-13.
The Kings are trying to turn the corner. Center DeMarcus Cousins and small forward Tyreke Evans are strong scorers who are entering their prime basketball years.
And you have to love Marcus Thornton, who is ready to make a name for himself at the two with his 18-20 PPG.
The Kings still have issues, but the away game of the two is the third for the Knicks on a west coast swing smack in the middle of the holidays.
But there's another west coast team out there New York will sweep. That team is one of the following six the Knicks will refuse to lose to in 2012-13...
1. Houston Rockets: 2 Games
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Add two more must-see games to the Knicks schedule. The games against Jeremy Lin and the Houston Rockets will draw as much national media attention (more maybe) than those against the Celtics, Bulls and Heat.
Luckily for the Knicks, these look like easy ones.
The circus starts when the Knicks hit Houston in late November and continues when Lin and the Rockets return to the Garden for a little holiday tete-a-tete on December 17th.
The Rockets were bad last year, and have only gotten worse with the departures of leading scorer and Carmelo Anthony nutcracker, Luis Scola (Phoenix), experienced point guard Goran Dragic (Phoenix), center Samuel Dalembert (Milwaukee), Kyle Lowry (Toronto), Courtney Lee (Boston) and Marcus Camby (New York). That’s pretty much the whole team that matters.
The Rockets, as hoopsaddict scolds, have “finally” opted for the “blow up” the team rebuild.
He’s gone too.
No excuses this year. Jeremy Lin or no Jeremy Lin, the Knicks should absolutely win both of these games.
2. Orlando Magic: 4 Games
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Quick. Name the Magic’s five starters.
How about this? Name five Orlando Magic players. Name the coach. No peeking.
Even with Dwight Howard, NBA three-point leader Ryan Anderson and Jason Richardson, the Magic fell to the Knicks two out of three games last season. Now they’re all gone, and Stan Van Gundy, too, and replaced with Gustavo Ayon, Glen Davis, Arron Afflalo and rookie coach Jacque Vaughn.
It is hard to beat any team four times in a season, but if the Knicks want to consider themselves part of the East’s elite, they must do just that against Orlando.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers: 3 Games
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The Knicks are 4-14 against the Cavs over the past five years, including 3-5 since LeBron’s decision.
The Knicks have in fact lost 10 in a row in Cleveland, where, unfortunately, two of the three games will be this year.
But it should be okay. The Cavaliers have two good players: Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao, who rebounds.
As a matter of seeding, and principle, New York must put that streak behind them and start one of its own: take both away games, plus the one at home.
4. Charlotte Bobcats: 3 Games
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One of the Charlotte Bobcats’ seven wins last year was against the Knicks. How did they do it?
The Bobcats have substituted their whole starting lineup for 2012-13. If it were possible to be worse than a .106 winning percentage (7-59), I’d say the new lineup could be the one to do it.
The Knicks went 3-1 against Charlotte last year, losing that foolish game early in the year at the Garden, under Mike D’Antoni. Mike Woodson won’t let that happen.
The Knicks sweep here, and the Bobcats wonder what city they'll play in one day.
5. New Orleans Hornets: 2 Games
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How about a little revenge?
The Knicks were 0-1 against the second-worst team in the NBA last year, the New Orleans Hornets, and it was that loss that ended the original Linsane winning streak in February.
But the Hornets have really switched things up in the offseason, with an emphasis on the future.
They are now the youngest starting five in the league, with rookie Anthony Davis at center, two starters with just two years’ experience and two starters with just four.
Eric Gordon, who played in all of nine games last season, is the veteran, “cornerstone” star.
The Hornets will be more fun to watch in 2012-13, especially when they lose both games to the Knicks.
6. Golden State Warriors: 2 Games
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Finally, that west coast team I mentioned in the intro, the Golden State Warriors.
David Lee was the Warriors’ best player last year. Remember how bad the Knicks were when that happened to them?
Now he’s about to start his fourth year of decline. Stephen Curry is returning from injury. Then you have a so-so freshman (Harrison Barnes) and so-so sophomore (Klay Thompson) shooting around statuesque anchor Andrew Bogut.
Sure Mike D’Antoni’s Knicks lost the second game of last season to the Warriors, but that was when Golden State had Monta Ellis, and eight other players no longer with the team.
The Knicks will be ready this time, both times.
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Take those six teams—Houston, Orlando, Cleveland, Charlotte, New Orleans, Golden State—and sweep them. That's 16 wins.
Take the four teams on the fence—Toronto, Washington, Detroit, Sacramento—and win eight of those 14 games.
Or, surely you'll take any combination of wins and losses against these teams that add up to 24-6?
But sweeps are nice.
The Knicks, hopefully, will not look past these games. Together, they make up more than one-third of the season, and could account for a much greater percentage of the team's wins.
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