Sam Spiegelman“I still believe that if we get in, somebody’s going to be in trouble,” Tyson Chandler said after the New York Knicks defeated the Utah Jazz to remain one game back of the Atlanta Hawks for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Chandler has a point, and it’s not only a testament to the Knicks pulling off a successful West Coast swing but largely due to the horrific play of the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat.
Indiana, which stood atop of the East for most of the season, has lost six of its last eight games and owned an 8-10 mark in March, and now trail the Heat by one game in the loss column after dropping one to the San Antonio Spurs last night.
The Heat, with Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen in and out of the lineup, have pulled off three consecutive wins, but have made a habit out of dropping games they should win by 10.
Interestingly enough, the Knicks have been competitive with both teams after the All-Star Break. On March 19, the Knicks showed off their defensive intensity with a 92-86 victory over the Pacers in Madison Square Garden, a part of the team’s season-long eight game win streak.
Back in November, Indiana needed overtime to get past the Knicks, and despite owning a 2-1 mark against New York this regular season, two of the three games have been very competitive.
The Knicks are also 1-2 against Miami. They had a 10-point victory over in the teams’ first meeting in January, then dropped both meetings in February. Their regular-season finale on Sunday will give New York a chance to tie up the season series, but also could be a first-round playoff preview.
If the Knicks play with the sense of urgency they showed last night in Utah, the kind of determination that was on display when they downed the Pacers last month and the kind of team mentality that keyed the eight-game win streak, Chandler’s absolutely right — the Knicks can and should push either the Pacers or the Heat in a first-round matchup.
Unlike Miami, the Knicks have a former Defensive Player of the Year in their frontcourt to contend with Roy Hibbert and a superstar in Carmelo Anthony to go toe-to-toe with Paul George. Since the assembly of The Big Three in South Beach, the Knicks have played the Heat tough, and could have an even greater edge if Wade and Allen are not 100 percent.
The one major question is whether the Knicks can consistently bring that sense of urgency to the floor just to make the playoffs. Seven games remain in the team’s way of catching and surpassing the Hawks to earn the No. 8 seed. If so, the Knicks will have momentum entering the postseason, which may lead to the team pushing either Indiana or Miami to the brink of elimination.