Josh NewmanOne silver lining during what has been a dreadful start for the Knicks is that while they have played poorly, it’s not like anyone else is running away with the Atlantic Division.
Now, having won three straight and four out of five following a 102-92 victory over the Miami Heat on Thursday evening at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks have momentum on their side, not to mention a favorable schedule.
The Knicks will play 10 of their next 14 games at the Garden, including seven in a row from Jan. 17 to Feb. 1. Of those 14 games, 10 of them will come against teams that are currently at .500 or worse.
It may have been a poor start, but this upcoming stretch is a big opportunity to get right back in the mix in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference playoff race. The Knicks are currently 4.5 games behind the first-place Toronto Raptors in the Atlantic Division and one game behind the Nets for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
“To win four out of five is very, very big for us and having a three-game winning streak, so the confidence right now is definitely rising, but we have to continue to play well, continue this momentum and keep going,” Amar’e Stoudemire said after registering one of his best games of the season with 12 points, 11 rebounds and strong defense throughout the second half. “We haven’t been playing great at home as of late, but I think we’re starting to gain that momentum a little bit more and get the confidence back at home. That being said, with these games we have coming at home, it’s gonna be big for us.”
Stoudemire has gotten consistent minutes and touches lately, but now the Knicks need consistent production from a player who is owed approximately $45 million between this season and next season. The 11 rebounds were a season-high and the first time he has grabbed more than nine in a game this season, while the 12 points marked the fifth time he has scored at least 11 in the last eight games.
For all of Stoudemire’s injury woes, he has stayed pretty healthy this season. Knicks head coach Mike Woodson opted to use kid gloves early on, specifically not using the 12th-year pro on the second end of back-to-backs. That tactic appears to have worked as Stoudemire has only missed two games since Nov. 23.
“STAT was great for us, this is the first time we’ve played STAT probably in a long time down the stretch,” Woodson said. “He basically, defensively, was doing what we asked of him. He really helped us bug time offensively, rebounding the basketball. We’re gonna need STAT to do that and I think he’s capable of doing it.”