The New York Knicks are playing their best basketball of the season at the perfect time. With only 6 games left on their regular season schedule, they are in prime position to lock down the Eastern Conference’s #2 seed, giving them home-court up until a potential Eastern Conference Finals appearance and keeping them far away from Miami’s side of the bracket. With a 2.5 game lead over the Pacers with only 6 games left on their schedule and 5 games left on Indiana’s, it would take a surprisingly weak finish for the Knicks to drop. At this point, there are four teams the Knicks could end up playing the first round. Let’s size them up -
Least Likely – Brooklyn Nets - The Nets are currently the #4 seed, at 3.5 games behind the Indiana Pacers and 2 games ahead of the Bulls with 6 games left on their schedule. They are likely staying put and facing the difficult path of Chicago in round 1 and then Miami in round 2, if they advance. The only way they could face the Knicks is if they tumbled down to the 6 seed (they are 3 games ahead of Atlanta right now) and the Knicks lost the 2 seed to Indiana. So barring a NYC-wide basketball meltdown, we won’t get the Manhattan-Brooklyn borough war in round one. The Nets would have been a relatively desirable match-up for the Knicks, more-so than Chicago or Boston.
Decent Chance/Worst Case Scenario – Chicago Bulls - Probably the worst possible first-round match-up for the Knicks, considering the Bulls physical style of play and how they’ve frustrated the Knicks in their regular season games this year. Chicago is only 1 game ahead of Atlanta for the 6 seed, so if the Knicks drop to #3, they risk seeing the Bulls in round one. Considering their 2.5 game lead over Boston and that the Celtics only have 5 games left, it would take quite the tumble to see Chicago in a 2/7 match-up.
Decent Chance/Best Case Scenario – Atlanta Hawks - The Hawks have a 1.5 game lead over Boston for the #6 seed currently, with 4 games left on their schedule. In a perfect world, the Knicks would hold on to the 2 seed and see Atlanta fall all the way to #7. Atlanta could also conceivably catch Chicago for the 6 seed and the Knicks could see them if they let Indiana catch them. The Hawks have been fading down the stretch and don’t match-up well with the Knicks at all.
Most Likely – Boston Celtics - Who else? The Celtics have 5 games left to make up 1.5 games on Atlanta or they will be the 7 seed, leaving them to face the Knicks in the first round. The Knicks have played well against the Celtics this year but with Kevin Garnett back in the fold, you know the veteran Boston team will be an absolute handful. Would you rather play Boston than Chicago? I’d say so but that doesn’t mean it would be an easy series.