The current goal of every Eastern Conference playoff team right now is avoid the Miami Heat as long as possible. We know who the eight playoff teams are going to be, we know Miami is going to be the number one seed, which means avoid the 4/5 and 8 seeds like the plague. The Knicks came dangerously close to slipping into the 4/5 range after their four game losing streak but have responded with a timely five game winning streak, despite not having Tyson Chandler available.
There is only 13 games left and the Knicks own a 2.5 lead game over the Brooklyn Nets (current #4 seed) and a 5 game lead over the Chicago Bulls (current #5 seed). Yes, the Knicks remaining schedule isn’t kind but the difficulty is being exaggerated by some. After tonight’s home showdown with Memphis, they still have Charlotte twice, Washington, Cleveland, Milwaukee at home and a KG-less Celtics at home. If the Knicks handle their business in games they should win and get just a few of their games remaining against more challenging opponents (Miami, Oklahoma City, Chicago, Atlanta twice, Indiana), they have enough of a cushion where they should hold to the #2 or #3 seed.
Brooklyn only has 12 games left, including road trips to Portland, Denver, Utah, and Indiana. Their remaining home schedule is soft so they will likely force the Knicks to sweat it out down to the final week of the season. Regardless, at this point it would take a bit of a Knicks meltdown and a surprisingly strong finish for Brooklyn for the Knicks not to lock up the Atlantic Division title and a 2 or 3 seed.
Considering how Boston is free-falling, the Knicks could play their way into a scenario where they get Milwaukee in a round one 2/7 match-up and even if they do get stuck with Boston in 2/7, we know they can win in Boston from their 2 wins this season. It would be ideal to avoid Chicago in the first round and it would be the worst case scenario to end up in the 4/5 match-up with them, with Miami likely awaiting the winner.
We know Miami is the unquestioned favorite in the East but a number two or three seed for the Knicks, with how they are playing right now, could lead to a long playoff run and an eventual showdown with the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Knicks need to keep it rolling right now, if they can “upset” Memphis at home tonight, this winning streak could very well run to 8 games with Charlotte coming to town Friday, followed by the banged up Celtics on Sunday.