With just 19 games remaining in the regular season, can things get any worse for the New York Knicks?
After Thursday night’s 105-90 loss at the Portland Trailblazers, the Knicks are 0-3 on their current West Coast swing and have lost those three games by an average of 22.3 points.
They will face the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday and the Utah Jazz the following night before returning to Gotham, perhaps looking up at the Brooklyn Nets in the standings.
Amar’e Stoudemire—who was looking springy and playing efficiently—is out until the playoffs begin, at the earliest.
Carmelo Anthony is back home having his knee drained. Tyson Chandler just missed his first game of the season after suffering a knee contusion.
To quote Michael Ray Richardson: “The ship be sinking.”
Let’s be frank here: The Knicks look every bit like a team that is headed for its third consecutive first-round playoff exit.
The NBA season is not a sprint, it is a marathon.
And the team that makes it to the finish line is not the team that flies out of the gates—like the Knicks did. it is the team that mimics the tortoise. Slow and steady, consistent and poised.
And after going 20-20 since that 18-5 start, the Knicks are running in mud.
Their lead in the Atlantic Division is down to one games over the Brooklyn Nets, and the Knicks could easily end the regular season as the fourth seed in the conference. In all likelihood, that would pit the Knicks against either the Chicago Bulls or Boston Celtics in the first round. And these Knicks—and the emphasis is on these Knicks—would be lucky to last six games with either of those two teams.
The ball movement and rim attacking present in last night’s first half at Portland has become the exception, not the rule. These Knicks do not consistently move the ball, they do not consistently rebound the ball, and they do not consistently hit from behind the arc.
And without doing those things, the franchise winning its first division title since 1994 will continue to be a dream, because either the Nets or Celtics will catch them. (They are 1-1 against Boston, with two games remaining, and went 2-2 against Brooklyn).
For the Knicks, the hopes of advancing out of the first round lie squarely on not only winning the division, but also on securing the second or third seed in the Eastern Conference and earning a first-round matchup with the Atlanta Hawks or the Milwaukee Bucks.
Obviously, there is a lot of season to be played and the Bulls, Celtics and Hawks all have the same 35-29 record. But when it is all said and done, the Hawks will likely end up as the conference’s sixth or seventh seed because they, like the Knicks, have regressed to the mean and have shown that their early success was not sustainable over the long haul.
After beginning the season 20-10, the Hawks are just 15-19. The Celtics, on the other hand, have turned their season around and have gone 15-6 since Rajon Rondo tore his ACL.
And though the Bulls are just 8-12 over their last 20 games, their athletic defenders on the perimeter and triad of bigs in the paint are kryptonite to these Knicks. The Knicks’ 0-3 record against the Bulls this season is no illusion.
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