Every game down this final stretch is going to be pivotal for the New York Knicks as they try to make a major last minute push toward playoff contention. Tonight’s contest against the playoff bound Washington Wizards will be no different.
Just a few weeks ago, the experts said the Knicks had as little as a 7% chance of making the playoffs, but a little help from the struggling Atlanta Hawks and winning 12 of the last 15 games has brought the Knicks back into the postseason picture. Let’s be serious – would you rather see a series with the Hawks vs. the Pacers/Heat or the Knicks vs. the Pacers/Heat? I’m not saying the Knicks would have a chance to win a series against either team, but both have struggled down the stretch of the season and the Knicks have been playing very well, so if they sneak in you never know.
Back to the matter at hand, as the Knicks look to take down a sixth-seeded Washinton team who at times have looked very dangerous with their dynamic backcourt. John Wall is looking to lead the Wizards to their first season sweep of the New York Knicks in nearly 30 years. The duo of Bradley Beal and the aforementioned Wall have given the Knicks fits this season because the Knicks struggle against quick guards that can shoot well on the perimeter.
Last time these two teams met, Wall finished with 31 points and seven assists in a 98-89 home victory on November 23rd, a game in which Anthony had 23 points and 12 boards.
Wall leads the Wizards with 19.8 points per game, but he is also having his best statistical season in his young career. He also averages 8.7 assists, which is top-five in the NBA this season, and 4.1 rebounds per game as a point guard. Wall is certainly coming into his own as a player, but outside the numbers he has improved his perimeter game and can now knock down the open three consistently.
Carmelo Anthony has reached the postseason in every one of his first 10 season, but this one has been the biggest struggle in his career. Of course that’s not from a numbers standpoint because Anthony is averaging 28.0 points per game along with a career high 8.2 rebounds per game. Ultimately this disappointing season will be attributed to the pieces around Anthony not being at the top of their games at the start of the season, coupled with injuries and inconsistency. Certainly, some of the struggles would be forgotten if the Knicks were to make some noise in the playoffs.
Keep an eye on Knicks starting point guard Raymond Felton, who was injured after a scary fall in the third quarter of Tuesday’s win against the Nets. He came back into the game in the fourth quarter after being diagnosed with bruised ribs. Felton has said he would play Friday, but the Knicks haven’t had him available for either meeting against the Wizards this year. Notably, Felton does struggle against quick opposing guards and John Wall might be the fastest in the entire league.
This game is the second of a seven-game stretch to close out the season, in which the Knicks will take on all Eastern Conference playoff teams. These last remaining games will show us just how ready the Knicks are for the playoffs if they make it at all.