The New York Knicks are 10-10 this season, but that record may be misleading. Their struggles on the road are cause for concern.
The surprising start to the season has Madison Square Garden buzzing. There’s an energy to this team that is leading some fans to believe that this Knicks team can compete for a playoff spot this season. While there is reason to be excited, this team will be tested in the next few months.
October and November were good to the Knicks. A favorable schedule in these first two months has been a considerable factor in the Knicks nice start to the season. While the Knicks have a 9-4 record at home, they also have a 1-6 record on the road.
The Knicks score 108 points-per-game and give up 96.6 points-per-game while at home. Conversely, they only score 102.4 points-per-game while allowing 108.9 points-per-game on the road. It is far too early to say the Knicks are a bad team on the road or even a good team at home. That being said, the home-road splits are concerning.
A team’s home-road splits can only tell a piece of the story. Injuries, changes in the rotation, and catching teams at the right time can all play a factor as well. What happened in the individual games the Knicks have played on the road?
On opening night the Knicks got smashed by Carmelo Anthony and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder had an 11 point lead at the half and never looked back. Kristaps Porzingis had 31 points and 12 boards, but there wasn’t much else for Knicks fans to cheer for. To be fair, this was a game where Jeff Hornacek was still working out his rotations. Ramon Sessions and Ron Baker combined to play 43 minutes. Frank Ntilikina played 8 minutes and Jarrett Jack didn’t even suit up. The team looks quite different from opening night.
The Knicks were just as bad against the Celtics and this game included a poor showing from Porzingis. Enes Kanter made his mark on the game with 16 points and 19 rebounds, but once again the Knicks were throttled on the road. The rotation wasn’t completely set, but Jack played 18 minutes in this game.
The lone win for the Knicks on the road this season came against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Knicks turned out their best performance of the year and got huge games from Porzingis as well as Tim Hardaway, Jr. This may be the best win of the season, thus far. Unfortunately, the Cavs were 3-3 coming into this game and have been 10-3 since. The Knicks may have caught LeBron and the Cavs at the right time.
The Magic battled the Knicks in Orlando and came away with a 13 point victory. The Knicks were without Porzingis so again, the Knicks can be afforded a pass. Any team not named the Warriors that loses its best player will have a tough time winning on the road.
In the Knicks’ first trip north of the border they were manhandled by the Raptors from start to finish. Porzingis could not find his shot and the Knicks never seemed to have a chance in this game. No excuses either because Coach Hornacek had a full lineup with established rotations.
The injury bug hit once again in the Knicks game against the Hawks in Atlanta. Enes Kanter sat with back spasms and the Knicks fell to one of the worst teams in the league. If the Knicks want to compete for a playoff spot they need to win these games. Kanter is one of the most important pieces to the team, but his absence does not excuse the loss.
The following night the Knicks took the floor in Houston to face the Rockets without Kanter or Porzingis. No one could expect the Knicks to win against one of the better teams in the league, especially while New York was missing possibly its two most important players. The concerning part of this game was the third quarter where the Rockets outscored the Knicks 37-10. They held a 22-point lead in the first half but ended up losing 117-102. The loss itself is not nearly as much of a red flag as the collapse.
The Knicks are in a decent place right now. They have a great record at home, Porzingis is emerging as a superstar, and young players are developing much-needed chemistry together. A .500 record is a pleasant surprise for many.
But don’t take the Knicks’ 10-10 record at face value. They have an important month of basketball to play before anyone can truly judge this team. They have 7 home games and 8 road games in the month of December. After seeing how this team responds to some longer road trips we will have a better idea of what this team is all about.
After the more balanced schedule in December, the Knicks will have to play 12-of-16 games on the road in January. That includes a stretch of 7 straight road games between January 15th and January 26th.
The nightmare scenario will occur if they continue to lose on the road, but don’t maintain their hot streak at home. Clearly, the sample size is too small to say anything definitively, but December and January could be very long months for Knicks fans.