The Knicks will be looking for their first championship since 1973.
The Knickerbockers recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of the 1973 championship team, and New Yorkers can’t wait for another opportunity to end the title drought.
This is New York’s third straight postseason trip, but unlike the last two years the Knicks did not back into the playoffs by crawling just above .500. They are entering the playoffs as the No. 2 seed with an imposing 54-28 record, which adds up to a .659 winning percentage.
Carmelo Anthony is fresh off his first scoring title after surpassing Kevin Durant in the last few weeks of the season. He has finally emerged as the leader the Knicks always envisioned he would be, and he lives up to the memories of his childhood idol, Bernard King.
Knicks' fans have gotten their hearts broken so many times that some might be reluctant to put their faith in the blue and orange. Nevertheless, the Knicks have proved that when they are healthy, they can compete with the best in the league such as the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Whether the Knicks can sustain that kind of play for an entire playoff run remains to be seen.
Mike Woodson led the Knicks to a 54-28 record.
That meant the opener came the following day against the Heat, which set the tone for the kind of season the Knicks would encounter. Fueled by excellent three-point shooting, the Knicks won 104-84 after making 19 three-point shots.
The Knicks’ start was one for the ages. They started 6-0 and ended the month with an 11-4 record. New York posted a 110.8 offensive rating and a 100.3 defensive rating. Statistically, that was the best defense they played all year.
The team’s climb continued throughout December and as 2012 ended, the Knicks were 21-9.
Then came the struggles.
For the next two and a half months, the Knicks were a .500 team, going 17-17 and their record was 38-26. While this was more than enough to be on the right track for a playoff spot, the Knicks had injury concerns.
Amar’e Stoudemire had returned and then left again with another injury, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler missed games and fans were left wondering how the Knicks could recover in time for the playoffs.
And that’s when circumstances took a turn for the better.
Coming off a four-game losing streak, the Knicks went on a 13-game winning streak that effectively sealed the No. 2 seed. Kenyon Martin stepped up in Chandler’s absence and JR Smith became a more efficient shooter, but it was Anthony who became the story line during the streak.
He tied Bernard King as the two only Knicks players to score at least 40 points in three consecutive games. Anthony had 50, 40 and 41 points against the Heat, the Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks, respectively.
When the streak ended against the Chicago Bulls, the Knicks’ record had improved to 51-27 and just two games later, they clinched the No. 2 seed after beating the Indiana Pacers and setting up a first-round matchup with the Boston Celtics.
The Knicks need to beat the Celtics to reach the next round.
Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks (All times are Eastern)
Game 1: at New York, 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Game 2: at New York, 8 p.m. Tuesday
Game 3: at Boston, 8 p.m. April 26
Game 4: at Boston, 1 p.m. April 28
Game 5: at New York, May 1 (if necessary)
Game 6: at Boston, May 3 (if necessary)
Game 7: at New York, May 5 (if necessary)
The Celtics ended with a 41-40 record after their final game was canceled due to the horrible tragedy at the Boston Marathon.
This was the lowest number of victories for the Celtics since 2006 and that also was the last year Boston didn’t win the Atlantic Division.
The Celtics will be without standout point guard Rajon Rondo who tore his ACL in late January.
Meanwhile, Newsday is reporting that Martin and Chandler will return for the Knicks once the playoffs start. The Knicks also were counting on Rasheed Wallace to be ready, but after injuring himself after a few minutes of play against the Charlotte Bobcats, the veteran decided to retire.
Even though the Celtics have had the upper hand in this rivalry and swept the Knicks two years ago, this looks like the year when circumstances will change.
The Knicks are 31-10 at home while the Celtics are 14-27 on the road. That doesn’t bode well for Boston, which hopes to steal one of the first two games at the Garden.
The Celtics have players such as Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, who averaged 19.2 and 18.9 PPG, respectively, in the playoffs last year. They can step up, but it looks as if Anthony and Smith will get the better off them.
Prediction: Knicks in 5. New York wins the first three games while the Celtics manage to win Game 4 and send the series back to New York. That’s where it ends as the Knicks defeat the Celtics in Game 5 to advance to the next round.
Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony will be the biggest matchup in this series.
If Stoudemire returns during the playoffs, it will be interesting to see how many minutes Mike Woodson plays him. In the 29 games he played, Stoudemire was averaging 14.2 PPG on 23.5 MPG for a 22.17 PER.
However, once Amar’e got to play more than 30 minutes a game, he was quickly sidelined with another injury.
According to 82games.com, the five-man unit that has clocked in the most minutes on the court is Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Smith, Anthony and Chandler. This unit contributes the most offense for the Knicks with 1.21 points per possession and also is one of the better defensive units with 0.97 points per possession.
Using Felton and Kidd together has worked out great for the Knicks as they emphasize ball movement, but the problem remains whether the two can stay healthy.
The Knicks still have Steve Novak, the three-point specialist, up their sleeve and the team needs him to be sharp from behind the arc if the Knicks are going to make a splash in the playoffs.
On another positive note, Chris Copeland has had two consecutive games with 30-plus points. Could he be another useful weapon in the Knicks’ arsenal?
The matchup that everyone will pay attention to is the battle between Anthony and Garnett.
It was always going to be about these two because of Garnett’s comments about Anthony’s wife in an earlier game this season, but this matchup could be the deciding factor in the playoffs.
Anthony has had luck playing the power forward position, averaging a higher PER and PPG than when he’s playing small forward.
It will be imperative for the Knicks that Anthony’s offense can overpower Garnett’s defense. That’s the key to advancing to the second round.
Tyson Chandler and Kevin Garnett are two of the best defensive players in the NBA.
New York Knicks Team stats
PPG: 100 (11th)
RPG: 40.4 (26th)
APG: 19.2 (30th)
OPPG: 95.8 (7th)
Offensive efficiency: 108.6 (3rd)
Defensive efficiency: 103.6 (16th)
New York Knicks player stats
PPG: Carmelo Anthony 28.7
RPG: Tyson Chandler 10.7
APG: Raymond Felton 5.5
STL: Jason Kidd 1.6
BLK: Tyson Chandler 1.1
Boston Celtics Team stats
PPG: 96.6 (18th)
RPG: 39.4 (29th)
APG: 22.8 (12th)
OPPG: 96.5 (10th)
Offensive efficiency: 101.2 (20th)
Defensive efficiency: 100.1 (5th)
Boston Celtics Player stats
PPG: Paul Pierce 18.7
RPG: Kevin Garnett 7.8
APG: Rajon Rondo 11.1
STL: Rajon Rondo 1.8
BLK: Kevin Garnett 0.9
All stats are from ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.
JR Smith is predicted by many to win the sixth man of the year-award.
It would feel disingenuous to pick anyone other than Smith. The 27-year-old guard is paid less than $3 million, but the way he’s been playing it looks as if he's in line for a big paycheck next season.
ESPN.com’s panel of experts recently announced who it believes should win the Sixth Man of the Year award and the consensus was overwhelmingly in favor of Smith. He received 23 out of 30 votes.
In the playoffs, it all comes down to how efficient a shooter will be. During February, Smith was averaging 13.5 shots a game, but eight were from behind the arc. During that stretch, he averaged 16.5 PPG.
For the next two months, he limited his shots from the three-point line, but he increased the number of field-goal attempts. His PPG suddenly rose to 22, and his field goal percentage rose from .430 to .482.
JR needs to keep playing the way he is right now. The last thing the Knicks need is for Smith to shoot 14 three-pointers and make only a few of them as he did in the 99-93 loss against the Heat.
The Knicks will need a lot of luck to win the title but it's not impossible.
As the No. 2 seed, it's only natural that the Knicks shoot to make the Eastern Conference finals—at the least.
If they get past the Celtics, then the Indiana Pacers or the Atlanta Hawks await them in the next round. Both are matchups the Knicks should be able to handle.
The Knicks have won all three games against the Hawks this season and considering that Atlanta can’t stop Anthony, who is averaging 41 points against them, then I wouldn’t leave it much hope should the two teams meet.
The Pacers are a worthy opponent, but I give the edge to the Knicks due to three-point shooting and the return of Martin and Chandler, which will help the Knicks defensively.
All it comes down to for the Knicks is beating the Heat.
If the Knicks are going to get to the NBA Finals, they will need to dominate from behind the arc. When New York crushed Miami in the season opener, they shot 19-of-36 from downtown. When they met again on Dec. 6, they shot 18-of-44. That’s where the Knicks’ shooting needs to be. It’s the only way you can beat a team that has a player who is averaging 26.8 PPG, 7.3 APG and 8.0 RPG.
It’s going to take a lot for the Knicks to win the title this year or even make it to the NBA Finals, but then again, no team goes all the way without a little hardship.
Even Miami's championship run last year wasn’t easy. The Heat were facing elimination in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, but then LeBron put up one of the greatest performances of all time with 45 points on 19-of-26 shooting along with 15 rebounds.
The Knicks will surely need performances such as that from Melo if they are to have any hope of reclaiming the NBA crown or even the Eastern Conference crown. Well, then, I guess it’s a good sign that he’s starting to play like a King.