The New York Knicks, a playoff team. Considering all that’s happened this season, that doesn’t make too much sense, but Carmelo Anthony, along with some newly found fighting spirit within the team and some smart changes from Mike Woodson, have led them to a 110-81 win over the Brooklyn Nets and a step closer towards ending up in the postseason.
Combined with the Hawks losing at home, the Knicks are in 8th spot, which means playoffs, and right now a first round series with the Miami Heat. Of course, things can change. The Knicks have played more game than the Hawks, and at 33-43 (the Hawks are 32-42) don’t have that much to be proud of. But it’s not their fault the East is the way it is, and the playoff seeding goes by conference and not league wide.
J.R. Smith led the Knicks with 24 points and Anthony followed with 23. Amare Stoudemire did a good job in the limited time he was on the court, Tim Hardaway scored 17 points off the bench in another impressive performance from the rookie and Iman Shumpert made Deron Williams look old, slow and miserable with some fantastic defense, adding a nice behind the back move later on that left Mirza Teletovic all confused.
The Nets were edgy all game long, with Joe Johnson almost getting ejected. There’s a lot of hate between these teams, simply generated by proximity. There have been blowouts this season in all three games, and there’s a fourth one waiting to happen on April 15. As we’ve gotten used to seeing from the Nets, one great win is followed by a completely flat performance, as it seems there’s no ability to put in too much effort over a longer time span, which doesn’t bode well for the playoffs.
The Knicks don’t have that problem, even though they’ve been inconsistent in plenty of moments this season. They’re on a roll, the best they’ve been on this season. It isn’t just consecutive wins. It’s a relatively long period of playing their best basketball, which might not be Spurs-like (the golden standard in the NBA) but it’s good enough a slightly different to the selfish, slow and ugly one we saw before.
The Knicks have won 12 of their last 15 games, and it isn’t just about wanting more, which was what both sides explained after the end of the New York derby. Obviously, there’s effort and focus involved in this “revival” but there has to be more to it than purely motivational things. There’s a matter of team chemistry and finally finding the right lineups, which neglects some defensive alignments and adjustments Woodson was thinking about for most of the season, and is a lot more about ‘simply playing ball’, which happens to be the best formula for these Knicks.
Normally anybody that comes off the West Coast, when you’ve been out there for a while, that game coming back is normally a tough game, but our guys came out with energy and came out ready to play. We know what we want. We want to get there. That’s the goal. Despite this emotional season, this up-and-down season, I think it would be a big deal to get in that spot.