Howdy! The Knicks play later tonight, in a game with much importance. Before we get to that, let’s dig into a tasty six-pack of thoughts on some things surrounding the orange and blue:
1. I’m not saying we can just pretend the fist 16 games of the season didn’t happen, but let’s go ahead and pretend the first 16 games of the season didn’t happen. The Knicks are currently 33-43. They started a Cleveland Brownslike 3-13. If my math is correct, that means that since that awful start, the Knicks are 30-30, an even .500. That’s a lot more indicative of who the Knicks are as a team, I think, than their current 10-games-under record implies. Again, all those games back in November counted just as much as any others, and the Knicks can’t blame anyone but themselves for being in the position they are now. However, if the Knicks simply played near .500 for the entire season, as they were absolutely capable of doing, they’d be solidly in the playoffs. They’d probably be battling it out with Washington for the 6 seed, hoping to avoid Indiana or Miami in the first round, and what would the tenor around this team be then? There are already some (likely misguided and perhaps confused) people who think the Knicks could make some noise if they get in and face the Pacers or Heat, so surely some would be favoring them if they were to match up with an inexperienced Toronto team in the first round.
BUT HOW MUCH FUN WOULD IT BE BECAUSE THE RAPTORS WOULD WIN AND MASAI UJIRI WILL NOT ONLY HAVE FLEECED THE KNICKS TWICE BUT HAVE KNOCKED THEM OUT LET’S START POLISHING HIS HALL OF FAME BUST RIGHT NOW FOLKS!!11!11!!!!
This isn’t to overrate the Knicks, by any stretch. Playing .500 ball is nothing to crow about in this weak Eastern Conference. Even at their best this season, the Knicks are a heavily flawed team; they’re often atrocious defensively, they fall into ball-stopping, movement-stifling bad habits on offense, and they often poorly manage late-game situations. Have all season. But they’re still a touch better than their record shows they are, I think.
2. The Knicks’ magic number is 10. We’re not talking about the playoffs, but about 3-pointers made. Obviously if the Knicks want to win games, they’d best tighten up their defense. But that’s a ship that has sailed, picked up some goods at a far away port, returned, docked, had some workers have come aboard and scrub the deck, and embarked back out into the far depths of the ocean. In their 33 wins this season, the Knicks have attempted slightly fewer 3s on average than in the games they’ve lost (24.6 in wins, 24.8 in losses). But in those wins, the Knicks make on average 10.2 as opposed to just 8.3 in losses. Sometimes basketball is just really simple, you guys.
3. Two players in particular have overcome terrible, slow starts to put together decent finishes to the season; J.R Smith and Amar’e Stoudemire. J.R.’s field goal percentage has trended upwards essentially all season. In 10 games in November, he shot an abysmal 32.8%, and in March shot 45.1%, including 40% from deep. Stoudemire’s efficiency has followed a similar trajectory to Smith’s, as he’s made the most of his increased playing time of late. Stoudemire’s overall game has improved as he’s played more, and his ability to fit in the front court with Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler has been a pleasant shock.
4. While the Knicks are currently holding the 8th and final playoff spot, er…actually…they’re really not. They have a slightly higher winning percentage than Atlanta, which is a meaningless leg up when you’re comparing two teams who have not played the same amount of games. The Hawks still have one less loss than the Knicks, and, unlikely as it is, if they win out, the Knicks cannot catch them. Plus, the tiebreaker is conference record, and the Knicks are two behind the Hawks in the loss column there. So despite it warming our hearts to log onto the interwebs in the morning and see a little “8″ next to our beloved Knicks in the standings, it’s actually kinda wrong. And on top of this minor detail, the Knicks’ schedule is much harder than the Hawks’ from this point out.
5. Regardless, let’s talk about who we’d rather play in the 1/8 matchup in the first round! It’s gotta be the Pacers, right? Based solely on the fact that they’ve been utterly terrible recently, and hey, you know, revenge or something. While their defense is still aces, the games would probably be fairly close because of the Pacers’ inefficient, clunky offense. They’re ranked an ugly 22nd in the league in O-rating. Meanwhile, the Knicks have a top-10 offense in terms of efficiency! Did you know that? Hooray for isolation! The Heat, by comparison, have the league’s third best offense, and that LeBron guy is still kinda good. Good offenses consistently kill the Knicks, while mediocre, bad, and high school offenses only give the Knicks problems roughly around 75% of the time. The Pacers will rightfully be favored and would likely win the series, but if you had to pick your poison, the least-deadly poison probably resides in Indiana. Which is wholly untrue outside of the basketball world. That place sucks.
6. The Knicks play the Raptors twice before the end of the season. We end on this note simply to remind you that they can knock the Knicks out of the playoffs and further prove how STUNNINGLY ASTUTE AND FLEECETASTIC MASAI UJIRI IS.