The New York Knicks confidence level is flying sky high right now, and surely enough they’ve earned it. With currently an eight game winning streak under their belt, the Knicks resume is looking much more credible towards their case of being among the NBA’s elite teams. With numerous questions surfacing the past few months regarding the Knicks being merely a .500 team, their recent play has put that notion to rest, at least for now.
Their were two notable games that during this eight game stretch that truly stood out, and the first one came on the exact night that jump-started the streak. The Utah Jazz are currently 31-9 on their home floor. On top of the Jazz being notoriously efficient in Salt Lake City, they desperately need wins right now, as they scratch and claw to regain the eighth and final playoff seed in the Western Conference from the Los Angeles Lakers. With every game, every dribble, being crucial for the Jazz, the Knicks stealing that win on the their home floor was impressive. Since the start of the season, the Jazz have had wins at home against the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzles, and the Los Angeles Clippers.
The next stand-out victory during the stretch was for their sixth in a row, a home game at Madison Square Garden, when they hosted the Memphis Grizzlies. At this point, the Knicks momentum was full throttle, but many people, like myself, thought it could very easily end against the Western Conference powerhouse, mainly because it was a back-to-back. Back-to-backs are some of the toughest games played during the regular season for even the top teams, and with the Knicks clearly being an older squad, it looked like a good time for the streak to come to a halt. The Knicks went on to win the game convincingly, regardless of the fact All-Star Center Marc Gasol returned to the Grizzlies lineup since missing time with an abdominal tear.
That leaves us with six more games to analyze during the streak, but that’s where it gets dicey. Now I know the Boston Celtics are one of the most hard-nosed, respected teams in the NBA, but it’s impossible to look past the fact that Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett missed both meetings. Garnett is the heart and soul of the Celtics, and they are nowhere near the same team on both sides of the court without him.
It almost seems as if it’s a distant memory that Rajon Rondo hasn’t played since tearing an ACL, and when it comes to this divisional rivalry, that’s a huge bonus for the Knicks. Rondo has been an absolute Knickerbocker killer in his young career, including the playoff series in 2011 where the Celtics swept them 4-0. Just to put it in perspective, Rondo has nearly been a walking triple double against the Knicks, averaging 16.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 13.5 assists per game the last 12 times he’s played them, with the Celtics going 9-3 in that span. Simply astronomical numbers. Boston has seemed to hit a wall since the hot start without Rondo, losing seven of their last nine games.
Although the Toronto Raptors have struggled all year remaining consistent, they were still able to capture two victories earlier in the season against the Knicks. The Knicks had their opportunity to redeem themselves, with two of the victories during the stretch coming against the Raptors, capitalizing to the fullest.
Rudy Gay, the Raptors clear-cut most talented player, left the first meeting after only playing 14 minutes, straining his back, and opening up the door to the Knicks to exploit the Raptors lack of scoring. Gay also missed the second of the home-and-home games, once again leaving the Raptors struggling to create offensive. It’s also worth noting that former number one pick Andrea Bargnani, a sharp-shooter who spreads the floor well for the Raptors, has missed games all season with a elbow injury.
Moving on, we have two more teams left to evaluate, as we search for the credibility of this current Knicks streak. Wins against the 19-56 Orlando Magic and the 17-57 Charlotte Bobcats added some legitimacy to the hot run, for the simple fact of how much they would have been bashed for dropping even one of the two. When it comes to the New York Media, a team can win however many games in a row they want, but dropping a “gimme” game like that would call for immediate backlash.
The Magic and the Bobcats have been downright abysmal this season, sitting next to one another at the bottom of the standings with the two worst records in the NBA. Adding a more positive outlook on the victory against the Bobcats, the Knicks were able to hold off a rising star in Gerald Henderson, who has quietly averaged an impressive 22.9 points per game over his last 13 appearances on the court.
Before I conclude this break down of the Knicks recent successes, I’d like throw a shout-out to JR Smith. Smith has been magnificent during this stretch, showcasing the talents we all know he has, but wished he’d utilize on a more consistent basis. Over the last 10 games, the Knicks have gone 8-2, with Smith averaging 25.0 points, 5.9 rebounds per game, while shooting 48 percent from the field, proving how much impact he can have on this team when he gets it going.
I’m not taking anything away from the Knicks, because the bottom line is, elite caliber teams are expected to win these games. I believe it bodes extremely well for any teams psyche, because winning fixes nearly every problem in competitive sports. This recent stretch has certainly made a turn in the right direction for the Knicks, swaying their image of them being a merely .500 team, into being a bona-fide championship contender.
The Knicks hope to have Tyson Chandler back in the lineup as soon as possible, as they hit the road to face the Miami Heat tonight. With Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Mario Chalmers all sitting out for the match-up, the Knicks chances of winning their ninth straight looks considerably more feasible.