The New York Knicks are trying to do something this season that they haven’t done in 13 years: win a playoff series.
New York is up 3-1 against the Boston Celtics, and with J.R. Smith (who sat out Game 4 with a suspension) returning to the lineup for Game 5, the team looks to be in a good position to move on.
But the Knicks want to do more than win just one series.
If the Knicks get past Boston, which they have put themselves in a position to do, they will take on either the Indiana Pacers or the Atlanta Hawks. The outcome of that series between the third- and sixth-seeded teams could determine whether the Knicks will be able to make a run at the Eastern Conference Finals, or if they will be sent home disappointed like seemingly every other year in the past decade.
The Knicks want to play Atlanta. There are absolutely no doubts about that. Why wouldn’t they? The Knicks are a perfect 3-0 against the Hawks this season, with Anthony putting up 41.0 points per game against Mike Woodson’s former team (Anthony played in two of the three games).
Woodson’s current team has defeated the Hawks in a 106-104 thriller, a 95-82 drubbing and a 98-92 victory in the last game of the season with every key player resting back in New York.
The Pacers are a much tougher matchup for the Knicks.
These two Eastern Conference foes, who battled for the No. 2 seed all season long, split their season series 2-2, but the Pacers (the eventual No. 3 seed) proved that they are more than a capable opponent. Anthony averaged 22.0 points per game against the Pacers in three games this season, but he did so on 37.9 percent shooting.
The NBA’s scoring champion struggled offensively mainly due to the smothering defense of Paul George, who was voted the Most Improved Player of the 2012-13 season.
Frank Vogel’s defensive-minded squad destroyed a struggling Knicks team back in February in a 125-91 beating, but then New York came back and handed the Pacers a 10-point loss on April 14th in a game that was a part of the Knicks' 16-2 streak that closed the season.
Regardless of who it is that they play, the Knicks have their eyes set on a showdown with the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. To get there, though, they will need to go through the Hawks or the Pacers and, for their sake, let’s hope it’s Atlanta.