The New York Knicks have finally returned from the road trip from hell. Five games…four lopsided losses…three major injuries. Yet, a silver lining at the end with a gritty road victory over the Utah Jazz. They didn’t lay down and die, they slapped together a full team effort for a critical March victory. 27 minutes from Kurt Thomas with 3 blocks? 31 minutes from Chris Copeland with 14 points? The often maligned Ray Felton gutting out 42 minutes and 19 points? This team had to start Pablo Prigioni at shooting guard and Kenyon Martin, who wasn’t on the team a month ago, at power forward…and still found a way.
Where does that leave them now?
For all the disaster of the West Coast trip, the Knicks are still in first place in the Atlantic Division by a full game and only one game behind Indiana for the #2 seed. They are expected to get back both Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler for Wednesday’s home game against Orlando, which kicks off a very winnable three game stretch with a home and home against the Raptors following. Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Nets will go on a road trip of their own with seven straight away from Barclays.
The Knicks remaining schedule isn’t kind after the upcoming three games but at least they will have Anthony and Chandler back in the fold and both will be well rested. They haven’t lost their opportunity to win their division. They haven’t lose their opportunity to be a #2 seed. More importantly, they aren’t going to play the run away freight-train Miami Heat in the first round. Home-court advantage is all well and good but these final 17 games are about locking in a playoff rotation while making sure Anthony and Chandler are 100% for the first round.
We have seen over the past few games that there is a clear spot for Kenyon Martin and Chris Copeland in this team’s rotation. There is no need for silly James White experiments or Jason Kidd in the starting line-up. Either Martin or Copeland should start with the other playing meaningful minutes off the bench. Kidd can be the second unit’s point guard. Mike Woodson needs to fine tune his minute division and line-ups in these final weeks.
The Knicks are a flawed team in a conference full of them (except for Miami). They weathered the storm and despite the injury/age punchlines can still accomplish all their regular season goals.