Resurgent Knicks Look to Make Playoff Run


Jim McIsaac

Anthony has led the Knicks by shooting 51 percent from the field and averaging 30.2 points per game in April. (Jim McIsaac/Newsday/MCT)


Anthony has led the Knicks by shooting 51 percent from the field and averaging 30.2 points per game in April. (Jim McIsaac/Newsday/MCT)

With the season winding down, the 2012 Knicks are an ambiguous team. Sure, they are still holding on to a playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, but merely entering the playoffs seems like a weak and quiet finale for a team that once thrived on “Linsanity.”

To those who somehow managed to avoid the media firestorm that was the ascent of Knicks guard Jeremy Lin, let us recap: The Harvard grad came off the bench in early February and helped the Knicks go on a tear, winning eight of his first nine starts and lighting up the Lakers for 38 points, all while superstar Carmelo Anthony sat out with injury. Lin’s play had reignited a fan base, and he looked to be the dominant, ball-distributing point guard then-Coach Mike D’Antoni so badly needed, forcing many comparisons between him and perennial All-Star point guard Steve Nash, without whom D’Antoni has had a .385 win percentage, according to ESPN.

In the time since, however, the Knicks have struggled to maintain any type of consistent, long-term success. D’Antoni resigned because he and the organization had “conflicting views of the Knicks future,” according to ESPN. As of April 15, the team is two games above .500, just as they were at the end of that eight-of-nine run back on Feb. 19, and just as they were before acquiring Anthony last season. The Knicks will be without Lin and forward Amar’e Stoudemire at least until the playoffs start. In fact, it appears doubtful that Lin will even be available for the first round of the tournament, wherein the bottom-seeded Knicks are likely to face either the league-leading Chicago Bulls or the big-three led Miami Heat.

In spite of winning eight of 12 games leading up to their division showdown with the Boston Celtics, the Knicks still remain a fair amount behind in the division standings. Optimists may point to the fact that there is still a possibility of catching the Celtics, thereby changing their first round opponent to one somewhat less daunting than Chicago or Miami. While this is certainly true, and it would not be the first time in the past year that a Boston sports team saw such a late-season collapse, the Knicks should be just as concerned (if not more so) with holding off the Milwaukee Bucks, who sit close behind New York in the standings, though the Knicks defeat of the Bucks on April 11 certainly helps.

Once, it seemed that the most troubling fact about the likely playoff-bound Knicks was their continued struggle to perform better with Anthony on the team. Since acquiring Anthony, the Knicks had fared better without him on the court; however, recently, the team has thrived in tandem with Anthony’s strong shooting. At times, during Anthony’s tenure in New York, it seemed like he was in an unshakeable shooting slump, but lately, he has broken out with 51 percent shooting and 30.2 points per game, according to ESPN. Greater question marks for the Knicks of late have come elsewhere. In Lin’s absence, help from the point guard position has been few and far between. The strongest effort has come from veteran point guard Baron Davis, who has played well below expectations, averaging under six points and five assists per game. Rookie Iman Shumpert continues to contribute with strong defensive performances, but has also been a key part of an offensively-anemic supporting cast.

As it stands, these Knicks have plenty of talent, but are having difficulty supporting their top players, some of whom continue to sit out. While Stoudemire’s absence is an issue of caution on the team’s part (as he has been healing and looks to be ready for the playoffs), Lin’s recent knee surgery leaves the team without two of its players for the time being. Moreover, Boston’s decently strong hold on the division lead leaves the Knicks staring down the seemingly unstoppable Bulls. Anything can happen, of course, and the Carmelo Anthony-led Knicks might storm their way to a championship, but with the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls looming and a bottom-end playoff seed likely, it looks like the Knicks might be headed home sooner rather than later.