After last night’s exhibition against the Wizards, the Knicks record improved to 31-28. A Sixers (31-28) loss moved the Knicks back into seventh in the Eastern Conference and an Orlando (34-25) loss left the ‘Bockers three games behind for the sixth seed. They remain two games ahead of the Bucks, who defeated the Pistons last night. Let’s take a look at the three “other” teams the Knicks are fighting for a playoff spot.
No. 6: Orlando Magic: 34-25 Record. Seven games remaining (2 at home, 5 on road). Remaining opponents: Cavs, Sixers, Celtics, Jazz, Nuggets, Bobcats, Grizzlies. Record vs. remaining opponents in 2012: 6-5
The soap opera known as the Orlando Magic received a new chapter for their show this week. It was learned last night that All-Star C Dwight Howard will be out the next 14-16 days with a herniated disc in his back. Needless to say, this a huge blow to them. Orlando has gone 1-4 in games without Howard, two of those losses to the Pistons and Wizards. Looking at the rest of their schedule, the only games that look winnable are the games vs. the Cavs and Bobcats. With the other opponents also fighting for their playoff lives and positioning, a Howard-less Magic team could lose at least five of their next seven, opening the slight door that they could miss the playoffs entirely.
No. 8: Philadelphia 76ers: 31-28 Record. Seven games remaining (1 at home, 6 on road). Remaining opponents: Magic, Pacers, Cavs, Nets, Bucks, Pistons. Record vs. remaining opponents in 2012: 9-7
The Sixers have fallen on hard times since sprinting out to an early season Atlantic Division lead. Since February 15, the 76ers have gone 11-19, losing their grip on the Atlantic lead and falling to third in the division and eighth in the Eastern Conference. What’s to blame for their collapse? Who knows, but if they want to make the playoffs, they’ll have to take care of business on the road. With games against the Cavs, Nets and Pistons as well as the Howard-less Magic, they could win at least four of their next seven. But as we saw last night in their home loss to New Jersey, they could find themselves at home come playoff time.
No. 9 Milwaukee Bucks
Seven games remaining (4 at home, 3 on road)
Remaining opponents: Pacers, Wizards, Nets, Raptors, Sixers, Celtics.
Record vs. remaining opponents in 2012: 8-4
The team that has been like a fly you can’t swat in the summer to the Knicks, Milwaukee is primed to grab one of the last three playoff spots in the East. Of the three teams, they have the best record against their remaining opponents, have the more home games and have simply been playing best down the stretch. Since they made the major trade to bring in SG Monta Ellis, the Bucks have gone 11-6. They’ve gone 7-0 this season against the Wizards, Nets and Raptors. They have a huge matchup against the Sixers on 4/25 that could decide one playoff spot. Considering the way the two teams are trending, you have to think the Bucks have the edge.
Who gets in? Tough to say. All four teams (Knicks included) have some cupcake games (Nets, Bobcats, Cavs, Raptors, Pistons) games left on their schedule but also have tough games against playoff contending clubs. As for the Knicks, I say they get in. They’ll win at least four of the their remaining games (Nets, Cavs, Bobcats, split between Hawks/Clippers). Let’s hope they can at least split their next two between the Heat and Celtics. The keys will be the finishes by the Sixers and Magic, as the Bucks seemed primed to at least surpass Philly in the standings. The race is on.