On Tuesday night, the New York Knicks did something they had not done in 19 years: They won the Atlantic division title.
For this Knicks fan, it feels strange. I was only born in May of 1994, so I have never seen the Knicks be this good. I barely remember a good Knicks team—only horrible ones.
It's been a really exciting season of basketball for New York City. Finally, the Knicks are an elite team and look to succeed where the teams of the 1990s failed.
Despite the success this season (over 50 wins, the division, probably No. 2 seed in the East, beating the Miami Heat three times and sending the Celtics to their grave), the Knicks apparently aren't satisfied and are set for greater things.
The Knicks may have had their best season since the '90s, but they cannot be satisfied by regular-season success. No, they must set their sights much higher.
New York enjoyed good success in the previous two seasons with the arrival of Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, but were rudely dismissed in the first round—swept by the Boston Celtics in 2011 and last year smothered by the eventual champions.
This year is different. Along with Miami and Indiana, they are the Beasts of the East, and there is a ton of pressure on them to succeed in the playoffs, where they have not escaped the first round in their last four playoff appearances going back to 2001.
This year, with a division title, they are guaranteed a top-four seed and look close to clinching the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, which will give them much-needed home-court advantage through the first two rounds.
Ian Begley @IanBegley
The #Knicks didn't celebrate their division title win last nite. "The bigger picture is winning a title," Woody said: http://t.co/iLNrtivOSu2013-4-10 13:29:31
As the No. 2 or No. 3 seed in this year's playoffs, more of the same would be absolutely unacceptable. Currently, the Knicks are set to do battle with their nemeses the Boston Celtics, so there is plenty of incentive for revenge for 2011's sweep. With Rajon Rondo out, they may look easy but Doc Rivers' squad can give the Knicks a long fight if they do not step on their throat.
Still, they could also face the Chicago Bulls, tough as nails without Derrick Rose, but that might change in the playoffs. They may also get the Atlanta Hawks instead, Mike Woodson's former club and perennial underachievers in the playoffs.
The Knicks should take none of these teams lightly, but they really should be able to beat them and move on to the second round. Anything less than that would be an epic failure and media nightmare, directed mostly at Carmelo Anthony.
In the second round, the Knicks are likely to meet the Indiana Pacers, who are tough as nails at home but struggle on the road. So right now getting that No. 2 seed over them is huge, as a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden with a trip to the Eastern Conference finals on the line looks much better than the same situation at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Lastly, the road to the NBA Finals goes through Miami, and they will be nearly impossible to beat. However, the Knicks may be one of the few teams in the NBA that does have a chance of taking them out.
The Knicks may have a massive advantage over the Heat in size, with the likes of Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin against the likes of Chris Bosh, Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem. If somehow Amar'e Stoudemire and Marcus Camby are able to come back in time for the ECF, only better.
However, the result of this potential war will be determined by the matchup of the two ultra-stars of the two teams: LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. When the Heat have not been able to keep him in check, Anthony has been able to go off on them. Both are at the peak of their careers right now.
Realistically? The Heat will probably end up prevailing in this series, because James is just too good. But do the Knicks have a chance? Absolutely.
It's been a fun season for the Knicks and their fans, and it could be even better with a battle and possible victory over the defending champions to reach the NBA Finals.
For a starved city that has not seen a basketball champion in 40 years, it is time for a drought to end in New York City. The Knicks will be ready, and they have as good of a chance anyone to win.