Earlier this season, the new and improved New York Knicks turned Madison Square Garden into what it once was before: a nightmare for visiting teams. With the support of sellout and raucous crowds, the Knicks won their first 10 home games this season by an average of 12.3 points. The 10-0 home start was the best the franchise has experienced since the 1991-92 version of the Knicks won their first 11 home games.
Since that hot home start, the team has sputtered at MSG. In their past 17 home games, they’ve gone just 9-8. While they’ve maintained a high average margin of victory in the nine wins (24.1, aided by the 39-point blowout against the Sacramento Kings), five of those wins have come against lottery bound teams. Six of their eight losses have been to teams who would qualify for the playoffs if they began today (Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls twice, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Clippers). The other two losses were to lottery bound teams (Portland Trailblazers and Toronto Raptors).
Now, it isn’t a crime to lose to playoff teams at home. One of the good qualities a playoff team should have is the ability to win on the road. However, if the Knicks want to become one of the elite teams in the NBA and have a deep playoff run, they need to do a better job of winning at home.
Of the past 10 NBA Champions, The 2010-2011 Dallas Mavericks had the worst home winning percentage, a .707 mark (29-12). The next lowest marks came from the 2007-08 Boston Celtics, 2006-07 San Antonio Spurs, 2005-06 Miami Heat and 2003-04 Detroit Pistons. Each of those teams went 31-10 at home in their respective championship seasons. The other five squads had home winning percentages over .800.
Currently, the Knicks’ 19-8 home record works out to a .704 winning percentage. They would have to go 10-4 in their remaining 14 home games to match the the 2010-11 Mavs .707 home winning mark. However, it isn’t going to be easy to achieve. Only five of their remaining 14 home games are against lottery bound teams. Two of their home games come as the second game of back-to-backs. The opponent for the Knicks in those two back-to-backs: the defending Western Conference Champion Oklahoma City Thunder and the Memphis Grizzlies, who mauled the Knicks in their first loss of the season in a 105-95 loss that was worse than the score suggest.
The second half of this season will be a grueling test for the Knicks. However, if they want to be considered one of the NBA’s best, they’ll have to grind it out. As long as they take care of business at home, that test can be much easier.