The New York Knicks (18-6) are currently the toast of the Eastern Conference and are nearing their return to prominence.
Disregarding Monday night’s pummeling at the hands of the Houston Rockets, the Knicks have been playing like a true No. 1 seed for the entire season. Despite battling through a few significant injuries, the team is looking primed for a deep playoff run, cancelling out a few unfortunate early exits in the past two years.
Now, more than a quarter of the way through the 2012-2013 NBA season, the first-round playoff matchups for the Knicks are beginning to take some shape.
Let’s take a look at six of the possible first-round matchups for the Knicks in the 2013 NBA playoffs.
Current seed: No. 10
One of the biggest surprises of the season may be the fact that Orlando already has ten wins under its belt
In lieu of a true star, it’s been a well-balanced offensive attack (five players are averaging double digits in scoring) and stingy defense over the past month that’s been keeping Orlando hanging around the early playoff picture. And with Hedo Turkoglu coming back from a hand injury soon, things could be looking even brighter for Orlando.
The Knicks pulled away in the fourth quarter in their Nov. 13 meeting with the Magic in Orlando for a 99-89 win. The two teams will play each other three more times this season before a possible playoff meeting, which would be the first between the two teams.
Playoff meetings: 0
Playoff history: N/A
Last playoff meeting: N/A
Current seed: No. 9
The Knicks and 76ers have only met in the playoffs four times, but if you include matchups against the Syracuse Nationals, the 76ers' formers moniker, the two franchises have seen each other 10 times in postseason action, dating back to 1950.
It’s extremely doubtful at this point that Philadelphia will see playoff action this season, considering that it’s a miracle they made it to .500 even this late in the season. Jrue Holiday is now out with a sprained foot, Andrew Bynum is yet to debut as a 76er (and probably still will not for a while), and they are about to head off on one of the toughest road stints in the league.
Philadelphia has historically had New York’s number in the postseason, but with the way both teams are playing (and considering New York’s back-to-back wins over the 76ers in November), it’s hard to imagine the Knicks having too hard of a time if these two teams met later in the spring.
Playoff meetings: 10
Playoff history: Philadelphia 7-3 series, 22-12 overall
Last playoff meeting: 1989 first round, New York 3-0
Current seed: No. 8
Ray Allen is thankfully no longer in a Celtics jersey and can therefore do no more harm to the Knicks (exhale). But this is Rajon Rondo’s team now, which might be just as terrifying.
Rondo is an assist machine and one of the most prolific playmakers in the NBA this season. Game in and game out, he has had no problem putting the team on his back when he needs to. The Celtics' main worry this season is whether or not they rely a little too much on their point guard, but the team should not have too many concerns upon at least gaining a playoff spot.
The Knicks and Celtics are yet to meet this season, with their first matchup coming a week into 2013. But with New York at full strength, the aging C’s should not be too much of a problem.
Playoff meetings: 13
Playoff history: Boston 7-6 series, 34-27 overall
Last playoff meeting: 2011 first round, Boston 4-0
Current seed: No. 7
There are few around that would not be excited for the next chapter of this heated playoff rivalry to emerge.
Paul George continues to be the key for Indiana’s success, and after last season’s postseason loss to Miami, he and the rest of the team are itching to prove their rise to prominence. Consistency will be the team’s key throughout the rest of the season, deciding whether or not this is a Pacers team ready to assert themselves as a solid force in the East, or a Pacers team good enough to just sneak into the playoffs.
The Knicks bested Indiana in their first meeting this season, 88-76, on Nov. 18. Indiana’s play against top teams like New York in their next three meetings should help clarify the Pacers' true place among the East’s best.
Playoff meetings: 6
Playoff history: Tied 3-3 series, Pacers 18-17 overall
Last playoff meeting: 2000 Eastern Conference Finals, Indiana 4-2
Current seed: No. 6
Consistency will be the key for the Bucks as well for the remainder of the season, as the team’s play clarifies where they belong among the field.
Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings are both enjoying solid seasons, most recently in their strong four-game win streak earlier this month. If they can respond to streaks like that better than their 111-85 loss to the Clippers this weekend, they could be a formidable team for anyone down the stretch.
Milwaukee did not prove to be too much of a challenge earlier this season for New York, as the Knicks rolled over them 102-88 on Nov. 28 behind Anthony’s 29 points.
Playoff meetings: 1
Playoff history: New York 1-0 series, 4-1 overall
Last playoff meeting: 1970 East Division Finals, New York 4-1
Current seed: No. 5
With New York playing like the first- or second-best team in the Eastern Conference, and Brooklyn playing like a team that deserves to be with the best of the rest (along with Chicago and Atlanta), it’s unlikely that the two teams will face in the first round. But the resurgence from both teams makes it pretty likely that the playoff road for both will go through each other.
Joe Johnson is proving his worth with Brooklyn. With the team’s defense picking it up recently, the only thing this team really needs right now is for Deron Williams to start playing like a superstar again.
The last time the two teams met in the playoffs, the excitement left the building shortly after Game 1, with the Nets rolling to a sweep of the Knicks in the 2004 first round. But considering the first two barn-burners between the two teams this season, it’s doubtful a playoff matchup this year would be anything less than thrilling.
Playoff meetings: 3
Playoff history: New York 2-1 series, 5-5 overall
Last playoff meeting: 2004 first round, Brooklyn (New Jersey) 4-0