After finishing the West Coast swing positively, the Knicks remaining seven games will determine the fate of their season. They only trail the dwindling Atlanta Hawks by one game for the eighth seed. The Knicks will be tested tonight at home against the Brooklyn Nets. The game will determine bragging rights for the city, and also have a playoff like atmosphere.
The deciding factor in the game tonight will be the bench scoring between the two teams. The Knicks bench will be weakened tonight if the neophyte, Tim Hardaway Jr., is unable to play due to a sprained ankle. If Hardaway is unable to play, the mercurial Iman Shumpert will be expected to make up his usual offensive output. The slew of injuries to key Knicks bench players (Kenyon Martin, and Andrea Bargniani) creates a disparity in bench play between the two teams. Brooklyn’s bench provides 38 points a night making them the 5th best in the NBA. With strong bench players like Alan Anderson, Mirza Teletovic, Marcus Thorton, and Andray Blatche, the Knicks will be forced to keep up with the Nets second unit.
Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith’s strong play can neutralize the Brooklyn’s potent bench. Melo has had an abundance of epic performances in this storied rivalry. The Knicks need a prototypical performance from their star in order to set the tone for this monumental late season matchup. Recently J.R. Smith’s positive play has filled the team’s need for a second scorer. Smith has been stellar in the month of March, coinciding with the team’s best stretch of play. When Smith plays well, Anthony is relieved of carrying the team on a nightly basis. The Knicks will need superb performances from their two talented players to propel them into the playoffs.
The Knicks remaining seven games are against teams that will qualify for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. This tough stretch of games will provide the Knicks with array of challenges. If they are able to overtake the tanking Hawks for the eighth spot, this final part of the season will prepare them nicely for the playoffs. A win tonight against the formidable Brooklyn Nets will provide the Knicks with much needed positive momentum for the last leg of their season.
Atlanta plays the Chicago Bulls tonight, so the Knicks have a chance to tie them for the final playoff position.
Tip-off for the Knicks is at 7:00. As always, TOK will have you covered.