Carmelo Anthony will be looked at to keep the Knicks' winning formula alive.
As the glitz and glamour of All-Star Weekend slowly fades away, it's time to focus on basketball in a serious way again. The 125-91 drubbing put on by the Indiana Pacers last night should be just the wake-up call the New York Knicks needed for their final 31 games.
The focus now is on the Atlantic Division title and a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference. It's playoff mode, and the Knicks have no room for error, as teams like the Pacers and Brooklyn Nets are both within a game of the Knicks for the No. 2 seed in the East.
Coach Mike Woodson and his players have to turn up the heat and not give up their position, with the playoff hunt inching closer by the day.
With these things in mind, it's time to predict the five things that are in the Knicks' future in the second half of the season.
The New York Knicks have lost their last three games while the Brooklyn Nets have won their past four. Their season series between each other is tied 2-2. The Boston Celtics have won the Atlantic Division for the past five seasons. The last time the Knicks held the division crown was nearly 20 years ago during the 1993-94 season.
Despite everything that seems to be stacked against them, the Knicks will persevere towards the end of the season and take home the crown they've so desperately wanted to call their own for so long.
Through the guidance of coach Mike Woodson and the scoring of forward Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks hold the 10th-ranked offense in the league, averaging 100.16 points per game. They also hold their opposition to just 96.29 points per game, which also places them 10th in the league.
This equates to the fifth-ranked point differential in the league at plus-3.87. The Nets sit all the way at 12th with a plus-.60 differential.
One of the clearest signs of being a better team in the NBA is by your point differential. Although the Nets sit just a game behind the Knicks in the standings, eventually it seems like the Knicks will outlast them based on their ability to put together a more solid game on both ends of the court.
Iman Shumpert will see extended minutes in the second half of the season.
It's hard not to notice Iman Shumpert. Standing at 6'6" with a 6'10" wingspan, he has all the physical tools to be one of the best perimeter stoppers in the NBA.
Last season he averaged 9.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.7 steals on his way to finishing fifth in the Rookie of the Year race. He was also the only rookie who received votes in the Defensive Player of the Year voting as well.
Coming back from a torn ACL, Shumpert has gotten to start in place of Ronnie Brewer. However, with coming back from any injury, he's been pulled frequently and given plenty of rest on the bench. His high-top fade makes him hard to miss for coach Woodson, and the organization is ready to see how effective he can be for this team in the second half of the season. He's too valuable for the team's future.
Carmelo Anthony (2nd from left) wants to join Kevin Durant (left), LeBron James (3rd from left) and Kobe Bryant by receiving his own scoring title.
It's been eating at Anthony his entire career: when will he win a scoring title? Michael Jordan won 10, Allen Iverson won four, Kobe Bryant won two, LeBron James has won one and Kevin Durant has won the last three.
These are all guys that Anthony respects dearly, and as a scorer his whole career, he wants to be enshrined into that elite list. At this moment, Anthony sits just 0.7 points per game behind Durant at 28.3 per game. He's going to do everything that it takes to dethrone Durant and in the process bring the Knicks the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference by the end of the season.
Anthony knows that the pressure is on him to make it happen, and if he ever wants to take the steps necessary in becoming a league MVP, this would be something great to add to his resume. The last and only Knick to ever win a scoring title was Bernard King back in the 1984-85 season. It's been a long time coming.
Mike Woodson is a leading candidate for Coach of the Year this season.
The toughest debate at the end of the season will most likely be who will win Coach of the Year. Will it be Vinny Del Negro, who's taken the Los Angeles Clippers to new heights (literally) in the Western Conference? Or will it be Mike Woodson, who's taken the New York Knicks from title pretenders in the Eastern Conference into title contenders during just his first full season as head coach of the team?
Woodson has coached the Knicks to a 32-19 record despite injuries to star Amar'e Stoudemire and guards Iman Shumpert and Raymond Felton. He's done a tremendous job of instilling his philosophy with the team and getting the best out of his talent. What was mostly known as an offensive team before his arrival, he's been able to preach defense as well. The Knicks can now contend with anyone in the league.
It all depends on how the Knicks are able to finish the season, but as long as his players don't fold, Woodson should be taking home the Red Auerbach Trophy at the end of the season.
Despite the Knicks successes this season, don't expect them to get past the Heat in the playoffs.
Despite how great a season it has been for the Knicks, they're still just too outmatched to beat the Miami Heat in a seven-game series. They do have a 2-0 season series record against the Heat, but LeBron James becomes a different animal come playoff time.
James averaged 30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.9 steals for the Heat in the playoffs last season on the way to receiving his very first NBA title. The Heat bested the Knicks in five games last season. Expect the Knicks to make it a series this year, but ultimately the Heat's core of James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen will be too much for the Knicks to handle.
This has been a season of major growth for the Knicks organization and its players, and no matter what happens in the end, this season can't be looked at as anything less than a success.