Sam SpiegelmanThe New York Knicks’ defense is a lot like UFO sightings — seeing it is rare, but when you do it’s pretty awesome.
Like they did in a primetime showdown with the Indiana Pacers back in March, the Knicks, again, put forth a phenomenal defensive effort to defeat the Brooklyn Nets and propel into the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Knicks held the Nets to a 40 percent shooting mark from the floor and less than 31 percent from beyond the arc. The Knicks out-rebounded them 46-33 and forced Brooklyn into a 11:16 assist to turnover ratio, all while holding them to 81 points, more than 17 points below their season average.
The last time the Knicks showed up on the defensive side of the ball with this much intensity was the 92-86 victory over the Pacers in the Garden on March 19. But since then, the Knicks proved their incapable of bringing that defensive effort night in and night out.
There were close wins over the Philadelphia 76ers and lopsided losses to the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns, a game that Goran Dragic said the Knicks weren’t even playing D.
But the Knicks have made defense a priority the past three games limiting their opponents to under 83 points per game over the past three — not surprisingly, all wins — with last night finally leading to a spot in the playoffs … for now.
Now that they’re in the dance, the team has to be cognizant of how they got there: defense.
The final six regular-season games come against playoff-bound teams, including one more against the Nets, who will likely be looking to avenge Wednesday night’s blowout, two contests with the Toronto Raptors and one against the defending champion Miami Heat.
Defense has lifted New York this far, but it must continue against the rest of the way. There is not enough time left in the season to have room for error. Defense must remain a priority the rest of the way to remain ahead of the Atlanta Hawks, who are primed to also make a push for the eighth seed.
So far, New York has stepped up to the task. If they can continue clamping down defensively, the team deserves to make the playoffs. If they falter, again, might as well begin cleaning out the locker room.