New York Knicks: Examining the Most Critical Parts of the 2012-13 Season
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You think a lot happened with the New York Knicks last season? That was only over 66 games.
They're packing a full 82 games into this season. Check out the schedule for 2012-13 here.
So, what will be the most critical part of the season? Obviously, that will be the playoffs. But that's technically the postseason. So what will be the most critical part of the regular season?
Here are six stretches during which it will be crucial for the Knicks to stay on their game if they want to reach the playoffs and secure a decent seed.
If Cuban won't, maybe the Nets will retire his jersey.
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It's hard to say the very beginning of the season is crucial, but as the team demonstrated last year, if you don't start well it's hard to right the ship.
The Knicks open with a tough nine-game stretch. They play the Nets on national television in the first regular-season game at the new Barclays Center, which will surely be a charged contest.
The next night, they host the NBA champion Miami Heat at MSG.
After an off day, they have a back-to-back home-and-away showdown against Andrew Bynum and the new-look Sixers.
And their opponents don't get much easier after that. They'll next take on Dallas, who may be a little bitter about Jason Kidd going to Manhattan.
After that is a three-game road trip to Orlando, San Antonio and Memphis—all playoff teams from last year. They return home to play Indiana, who are young, tough and very talented. If the Knicks stumble in this opening stretch, recovery could be tougher than they think.
The Nets will no longer be playing in an empty arena.
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The Knicks will still be without the deft defense of shooting guard Iman Shumpert, who is expected to return around January. The team will have 17 games under their belt at this stage and should have regained their sea legs by this point. Ideally, their chemistry will be cooking as the season kicks off.
And it had better be.
They'll be at Miami and at Chicago, facing last year's No. 1 and 2 seeds. They'll return home to face a stout Nuggets team that took the Lakers to seven games in last year's playoffs and gained Andre Iguodala in the offseason.
The Knicks then face the Nets in Brooklyn to continue their budding East River rivalry. Finally, they will bring Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to the Garden for the first time in Laker yellow. They also have some guy named Kobe Bryant and Marc Gasol's older brother.
A losing streak in these five games could be a lump of coal in the Knicks' Christmas stockings.
These two bosom buddies age like fine wine.
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Divisional matchups are so important, and the Knicks have a run of them in late January.
First, the Knicks will take on Brooklyn at MSG on the 21st, which is also Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the Presidential Inauguration. It will be interesting to see which event Jay-Z attends.
After that, they'll head to Boston on the 24th and Philly on the 26th. If the Knicks can reel off two or three divisional wins, coach Mike Woodson may very well be buying the whole team cheese steaks at Jim's on South Street. They'll still probably have to wait in line.
Then, they return home to play against another Eastern Conference foe on the 27th, last year's fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks.
Any losing streak is bad, but one against divisional rivals can be fatal.
'Should I play hard? Or dog it? Can't decide!'
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At the All-Star break, there will be 50 games in the books. The Knicks will have six days off over the break, with their last game being on February 13 at home against Toronto.
The Knicks return from the break on February 20 to play the Pacers in Indiana. This will not be an easy matchup. The Knicks cannot afford to be rusty against such a talented squad, especially a conference rival that they'll be battling for playoff position with.
It will be important to set the tone after such a long layoff. The Knicks will then travel to Toronto on the 22nd and return to New York to host Philly on the 24th.
I'm sure Andrew Bynum will be rested, so he may very well decide to bring the noise that night on Broadway. Tyson Chandler and Marcus Camby had better be ready.
This is the best team in the NBA.
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From March 7 through 27, the Knicks play 12 games. Seven of those will be on the road. They begin at home against the Western Conference champion Thunder and then take on an improved Utah Jazz squad that posted a 36-30 record last year.
They come home and have a day off before taking on the Magic at MSG, then they have another night off before an away-and-home pair of contests against Toronto on consecutive nights.
They will have two nights off before they head up to Boston for a key divisional showdown. And the next night they take on the Grizzlies at the Garden.
These 12 games could very well be a make-or-break stretch for the Knicks. Poor play could drop them down towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture with only a dozen games remaining.
March 31-April 7
It may look like P. Diddy's White Party, but it's no picnic playing in Miami.
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On March 31, the Knicks will take on Boston at MSG in the 72nd game of the season. This is known as crunch time. Their place in the division and their playoff seeding will be at stake. And it doesn't get easier after this contest.
After a travel day, they head down to Miami and then play in Atlanta the next evening. They'll return to New York to play the Bucks, whom they battled for a playoff berth last season. And after a travel day, the Knicks will be down in OKC to take on the fearsome Thunder.
They'll have to go out there and take care of their games, but analysts and prognosticators will be watching all the other teams and playing the "who would you rather" game as playoff seeding becomes clear.
Good play in these six stretches should guarantee the Knicks a cushy spot as the No. 2 or 3 seed. Then all they have to do is win a playoff series for the first time since 2000.