The New York Knicks recent 8 game winning streak has demonstrated the team who rushed out to a 18-6 start is still capable of showing up for an extended period of time. At the same time, it has shown the player JR Smith is truly capable of being and the value of Kenyon Martin and Pablo Prigioni (8-0 as a starter!) to the playoff rotation. Yet, for all the pats on the back the Knicks are receiving, all they’ve really accomplished is making an Atlantic Division title a near certainty while still having plenty of questions floating around them.
They are still a half game behind the Indiana Pacers for the Eastern Conference’s #2 seed and the likely first round match-up of either Boston or Milwaukee. A #3 seed leaves a dangerously high possibility of a first round match-up with Chicago, something the Knicks would like to avoid. Chicago’s physical style has an ability to force the Knicks to lose their composure and get out of their game. Considering how the Knicks have played Boston this season, it is a much more favorable match-up for them than Chicago, as Milwaukee would be as well.
As for the roster, Tyson Chandler still needs to be worked back into the rotation and log some quality minutes before the playoffs start. It doesn’t sound like he will play tonight against Miami but if he could get back by Friday against the Bucks, he will have 8 games to get back into rhythm before the playoffs start. It will be interesting to see how Mike Woodson divides up the minutes when he is back in the line-up, nevermind if Amare Stoudemire actually does come back for the first round of the playoffs. There will be tough rotational decisions to be made. How can you cut major minutes for Martin or Prigioni, considering how well they played? Do you make Chris Copeland inactive every night despite what he has brought on offense? These upcoming weeks will be a huge referendum on Mike Woodson’s viability here as the long term answer at Head Coach. Considering the talent and depth on this roster, anything less than an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals will be considered a disappointment.
7 of the Knicks final 10 games are against playoff teams, which means there is an opportunity for this winning steak to be a distant memory if they don’t keep their foot on the gas. A 4-6 or 3-7 finish will send them into the playoffs with no momentum and erase the restoration of confidence shown over these past few weeks.
Miami is always a tall order, particularly in their building but the Knicks can’t let a prospective loss tonight snowball into a losing streak or uneven play.