Somehow, someway, the Knicks are still in the playoff race. They don’t deserve to be, but then again, neither do half the teams in the historically bad Eastern Conference.
But the Knicks really don’t deserve to.
Just one year ago, New York won 54 games in the regular season and their first playoff series since the 1999-2000 season. Entering the 2013-14 season, the mindset around the organization was that the team would contend for a championship. In a meeting with some executives and staff members before the season, owner James Dolan said he believes they have enough talent to win it all, and he expects it to happen this year.
After an opening night victory, the season has been downhill from there. Frankly, everyone on the Knicks can take at least part of the blame.
J.R. Smith, who signed a contract worth roughly $18 million in the offseason, has been inconsistent, and has had maturity issues. Iman Shumpert has been in a season-long shooting drought, and has showed no signs of snapping out of it any time soon. Raymond Felton has also had an eventful year, as he has had to battle with the law in addition to opposing point guards, whom have feasted off of the North Carolina product all year long.
Those three players have been just part of the Knicks problems. However, the biggest reason why they have their ugly 33-44 record is because of their inability to finish close games.
Right from the second game of the season, winning close games has been a struggle for the Knicks. This season, New York has lost 15 games by five points or less. In ten of those games, they were just one defensive stop away from getting the victory.
However, it hasn’t just been the defensive lapses that have cost the Knicks, but also the stagnation and overall ineffectiveness of their offense. In the last 30 seconds of games where the Knicks are down by three points or less, New York is shooting an atrocious 10 percent.
Losses to beatable teams such as the Lakers, 76ers, Bucks, and the Celtics have hurt the Knicks tremendously this year, but those 15 games that the Knicks could’ve, and probably should’ve won have also contributed largely to the cause.
Because they are behind the Atlanta Hawks by one game for the final playoff spot, and time is ticking on the Knicks season, these losses have been magnified. They are a huge reason why New York’s playoff chances have been low, and steadily decreasing, throughout the entire year.