It’s been nearly a decade since all eyes were turned towards Madison Square Garden, but with the Knicks chasing a 10th consecutive victory, the Mecca of basketball finally recaptured the world’s attention.
An incredible month of April propelled the Knicks all the way into the East’s 4 seed, leapfrogging the Atlanta Hawks in an overtime thriller to climb the standings.
Sitting a handful of games behind the Bucks for 3rd with just a fraction of the season left, it’s not likely the Knicks will continue to rise, though New York has effectively solidified their spot in the playoff picture.
Over the last month, the hard work and constant effort put in by the Knicks finally came to fruition. The dedication from a young and hungry team almost got out of hand at times, with head coach Tom Thibodeau even banning the team from practicing so they could rest.
“I want to sneak into the gym to get some more shots up,” said rookie Immanuel Quickley, who has become a big contributor off the bench in his first year.
On April 9th, the Knicks stood in 8th place in the Eastern Conference, but after winning their next 9 games they had risen to 4th. The 4-10 seeds in the playoffs are still wide open in the East, and with contests heating up for vital playoff positioning, New York’s wins couldn’t come at a better time.
The streak started with a tight Overtime finish against the Grizzlies, followed by a strong win over the Raptors. An early highlight came soon after, as New York toppled the defending champion Lakers, although LA came to New York with Anthony Davis and LeBron James out.
From then on, the Knicks refused to lose. In the blink of an eye the streak was the longest active one in the league, and the Knicks the most red-hot team in the NBA.
Over their next nine, it was no surprise that Julius Randle continued to lead the way on offense. Randle averaged an incredible 30 points per game during the streak, highlighted by 40-pieces against Dallas and Atlanta.
Derrick Rose played a big role for New York as well during the run. In the last 5 games of the streak, Rose averaged 20 points and provided New York with another dangerous presence on offense.
Unfortunately the streak fell short of double-digits, as the Phoenix Suns came back late to defeat New York at MSG on Monday night.
Despite the strong defensive effort, the Knicks couldn’t stop Devin Booker, who coasted to 33 points. Chris Paul also dazzled for the Suns, picking up some massive points in the final minutes to close out the contest.
Nobody expected the Knicks to be in the playoff picture at the start of the year, but after already shattering their projected win total of 27, it’s almost certain they’ll tip off in late May when the postseason gets underway.
The last nine to be easy if New York wants to earn home court advantage in the first round. With eight games coming against playoff opposition, the final stretch of the season will test where the Knicks stand against the league’s other top teams.
New York will start a 6-game road trip on Sunday as they take on the struggling Houston Rockets. The final three games of the year will be played at MSG, as the Knicks are certain to be hunting for key wins to clinch favorable positioning.
The Knicks are back in the limelight, and with the last days of the regular season ticking, it’s time to see what New York can do in their playoff push.