It is easy to brush away the New York Knicks recent four game winning steak because of the competition level. Considering how Utah is bottoming out, all four wins came against teams who won’t be in the playoffs but that shouldn’t diminish the importance of the victories.
The Knicks managed to avoid any let downs despite not having Tyson Chandler available in any of the match-ups. His absence also allowed them to truly acclimate Kenyon Martin to the rotation, where he has proven to be a value piece on both ends of the floor and somebody who is going to see extended playoff minutes. Martin’s shot of energy to the defense has coincided with improved defensive play from Iman Shumpert who is slowly regaining elements of his form from last season. A healthy, rested Chandler combined with an invigorated Martin and an improving Shumpert should improve the consistency of the Knicks defense by leaps and bounds.
Carmelo Anthony has also returned to healthy to bring needed firepower to the Knicks offense. Obviously, this Knicks team needs Anthony hitting on all cylinders if they expect to make any kind of noise in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Mike Woodson has also given an increased role to Pablo Prigioni, which is helping the team’s ball movement and ability to more regularly find good looks at the basket.
The Knicks have fourteen games left to work out any lingering issues. It is a brutal upcoming schedule but they should be catching Boston without Kevin Garnett twice and have enough other winnable games (hello Charlotte twice, Cleveland and Washington) where they still have a strong chance to hold on to the number two or three seed in the Eastern Conference.
Getting all four of the previous games, without Chandler, could very well be the difference from the Knicks being a three seed or a six seed, nevermind the needed confidence boost it gives heading into the final stretch of the regular season and the playoffs.