The big win over the Detroit Pistons was nice, but the New York Knicks should instead focus on how to best finish the 2020-21 season.
The New York Knicks should be happy after ending their three-game losing streak, but the celebration should be short.
So they beat the Detroit Pistons by a ridiculous 125-81 margin. That’s a nice bounceback win, except the Pistons are the worst team in the Eastern Conference. Yet, this past Wednesday, these same Knicks blew a fourth-quarter lead against the league-worst Minnesota Timberwolves.
None of this is to downplay the Knicks, who improved to 25-25 with Saturday night’s win. This makes them the No. 7 seed in the East, though they trail the No. 4 spot by just a game. With streaky play all year long, there’s really no telling which seed, if any, New York will have come playoff time.
Well, there are six weeks left in the regular season and the New York Knicks are in the thick of the race. This recent losing streak was not a rough stretch, but a wake-up call.
It’s time to finish the season, which means smart basketball the rest of the way.
A tough road ahead
We should also hope the Knicks truly enjoyed their win in Detroit, because the Pistons were their last easy opponent of the season. All but four of the Knicks’ remaining opponents are either in the playoffs or in the hunt. This includes two games each with the Los Angeles Lakers, who will probably have LeBron James and Anthony Davis back by May, and the Chris Paul-led Phoenix Suns who have surprised everyone this season.
Additionally, the Knicks next have to face the rival Brooklyn Nets on Monday after a controversial loss to them back on Mar. 15. This time, Brooklyn could be without both Kevin Durant and James Harden. This is a prime opportunity for a tough New York Knicks statement win, even if the Nets are shorthanded.
Banged up bigs
And here’s yet another reminder for why it’s important that the Knicks finish strong: Mitchell Robinson isn’t coming back this season.
I know, I know. He hasn’t been officially ruled out as such, but let’s be honest. This is a truth more universal than avoiding the Lexington Avenue line at rush hour. He broke his foot, had surgery, and doesn’t have a timetable for a return. Unless he pulls off some Willis Reed miracle, we’ve probably seen the last of him this season.
Granted, the New York Knicks have proven able to get by without Robinson thanks to great play from Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson. Noel even leads the league in DBPM. Yet, he too has missed time with some injuries this year. Similarly, Gibson is 35 and took some hard falls against Detroit on Saturday, not to mention played with a black eye.
A mere game and a half separates the No. 4 and No. 8 seeds in the East and the Knicks have five games remaining against these teams. In May, New York has a six-game road trip out west that spans nine days.
Long story short, the rest of the season only gets harder from here.
Thankfully, the New York Knicks have a great coach in Tom Thibodeau and players like Julius Randle have stepped up in key situations all year long. The recent losing streak was the team’s worst of the year but does not define this season. Knicks basketball is back with a vengeance and will only continue to improve.
Except every Knicks fan has been down this road before. The fights in the season’s final days. The determination to reach the postseason. Even with a few non-playoff opponents sprinkled in, these next six weeks are very much mental games for the New York Knicks.
The exhaustion will be both physical and emotional. The close to this season will test this young team, especially second-year star RJ Barrett. The Knicks absolutely have what it takes to not only make the playoffs, but maybe go on a small postseason run.
That is, they can if they finish the season. Let’s come together as a city to root hard for them to do exactly that.