The New York Knicks season could soon be heading in a direction that is far too familiar and incredibly disappointing.
This year’s New York Knicks, despite expectations, are in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. However, these expectations can quickly become fantasies over the next couple of weeks as New York embarks on the toughest stretch of their schedule yet.
Of the Knicks’ 17 wins, 15 have come at home. While this leads the NBA, this statistic is a tad bit misleading. The team’s league-leading home success, while certainly a cause for optimism, is partially due to the fact that they have played the most home games in the NBA.
This is about to change.
The Knicks will end 2017 on a three-game road trip in Chicago (Wednesday, Dec. 27), San Antonio (Thursday, Dec. 28) and New Orleans (Saturday, Dec. 30) over the next few days.
In January, the Knicks will play 12 games on the road, with only four games being played in the friendly confines of Madison Square Garden. That includes a seven-game stretch from Jan. 15 to Jan. 26 that includes stops in Brooklyn, Memphis, Utah, Los Angeles, Oakland (Golden State), Denver and Phoenix.
Anybody who has followed the team over the first three months of the season knows how monumental the Knicks’ road woes have been.
The team sports a record of 2-10 on the road, including losses against the lowly Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls.
New York has the worst offensive rating in the NBA while playing outside of Manhattan. Defensively they are arguably just as bad, with a defensive rating of 108.6, ranked seventh-worst in the NBA.
This changes dramatically when they are playing at home.
Their offensive rating jumps to 109, the 10th best in the NBA. Even their defense, while not in the upper echelon of the NBA, places at a respectable 13th in the association with a 103 defensive rating.
These tremendously differing home and away splits are a huge cause for concern, especially entering the new year.
January is going to determine whether the New York Knicks remain in the fray for one of the last playoff spots out East, a tune that sounds far too familiar.
Last season the New York Knicks found themselves in a similar predicament.
That team, led by Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Derrick Rose, were above .500 entering a matinee affair at the “World’s Most Famous Arena.”
They had played a favorable schedule with 11 of their 15 wins coming at home and fans had their expectations set on making the playoffs for the first time in the Phil Jackson era. Knicks fans know all too well what transpired next.
The team dropped their marquee Christmas Day game, lost 37 of their remaining 52 regular season games and missed the postseason for the fourth consecutive season.
Obviously, the set of circumstances for last year’s team and this year’s team are different.
Last year’s team suffered from issues that spanned far beyond struggling on the road. Their defense was horrid, regardless of whether or not they were playing on their home court, they had two players no longer in the prime of their careers—Melo and Rose—leading the team in usage percentage, and struggled to utilize their young unicorn, Porzingis, to his fullest potential.
This year’s team is different.
With Tim Hardaway Jr., the team’s second-leading scorer, (hopefully) returning soon, the Knicks could easily turn around their season. After all, this is a team that just took a game against a Boston Celtics squad that is looking like a strong favorite to repeat as the Eastern Conference’s top seed.
It is just a matter of whether they can conquer their road demons.
Will Porzingis, who is scoring three fewer points on the road, shooting almost six percent worse from the floor and more than five percent worse from three, perform like he does in MSG? Can Jarrett Jack, whose net rating of -7 away turns into a net rating of 5.4 at home, shake his road struggles?
And most importantly, can the team play with the same defensive intensity and offensive flow that has propelled them to early season success at home?
If the team’s past history has indicated anything, probably not. This is a franchise that lives and breaths by the adage of Murphy’s Law—anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
The last two Knicks teams may be different, but there is little doubt that this year’s team might very well follow down the same path as the previous one. The formula for disaster is staring the Knicks in the face as their road opponents increase in 2018.
The Knicks’ faithful will see if they are in store for an equally disappointing end to the season as last year after their challenging January schedule.