I wouldn’t be the first person to observe that the Knicks’ remaining schedule is brutal. Most people point to the two obvious metrics: opponent’s records and road games. Of the Knicks’ remaining 24 games, only nine are against teams that currently have a losing record. In addition, the Knicks only have nine home games left on the schedule. The full extent of how bad the road ahead is for the Knicks goes beyond records and road games though.
For example, the Knicks have eight remaining games which will be the second game of a back to back. Yet they will only have four games where they will be catching their opponent in the same situation and none of those four opponents (Utah, Orlando, Toronto and Atlanta) are among the Knicks’ toughest foes. Playing games without a day of rest or after a tough plane flight are especially hard for the Knicks, given the geriatric nature of their roster.
While there is no such thing as a sure thing in the NBA, there are nine games left that the Knicks should definitely be favored in. Even then, only two of the Knicks’ remaining games are at home, on full rest and against teams (Orlando and Washington) with a losing record. Of the other seven games, there are three more where the Knicks are catching a foe with a worse record that’s on short rest and the remaining four are on the road against Detroit with NY on full rest, on the road against Toronto on full rest, home against the Bucks on full rest and against the woeful Bobcats. Sure the Knicks will be on the road and on short rest against Charlotte, but it’s the frickin Bobcats! So yeah, these nine games are ones that NY should find a way to win.
Yet if the Knicks only win those nine, they would finish the season at 44-35, which while good enough to make the playoffs in the feeble Eastern Conference, it would probably mean playing on the road in the first round of the playoffs as a six or seven seed and we could probably expect an early exit. In order to make a strong showing, the Knicks will probably need a home playoff series and to avoid Miami until the Conference Finals. This probably means they would need to finish as either the two or three seed in the East. So let’s take a look at why the other 15 games on their schedule are so terrifying.
March 3- Miami Heat. One of the many reasons why the Knicks schedule is so hard is that the games where they face an outstanding opponent that might be tempted to take them lightly, they get put on national television, ensuring the full attention of the opponent in question. Here they face a Heat team on a 13 game winning streak, itching to avenge a pair of 20 point losses. Ouch…
March 4- Cleveland Cavaliers. Sure the Cavs are only 20-39, but the Knicks are facing them on the road, on short rest and right after an emotionally draining game with the Heat. The last time they played was in MSG and the Knicks barely managed to pull off a one point, 103-102 victory. Point guards of all calibers have been carving the Knicks up this season (see Curry, Stephen), so we can expect more problems from Kyrie Irving (41 points last time).
March 7- Oklahoma City Thunder. It’s bad enough that the Knicks have to face two 42 win teams in the same week, but OKC catches NY on short rest, with their own all-star point man, Russell Westbrook, playing well.
March 11- Golden State Warriors. Stephen Curry gets a second chance against NY and this time he’s playing at home and will have David Lee back from suspension.
March 13- Denver Nuggets. Playing against the young, high-octane Nuggets in high altitude Denver seems like a nightmare for the elderly Knicks. Never mind that the Knicks and Nuggets seem to be heading in opposite directions in spite of similar records, with NY struggling and the Nuggets on the rise.
March 14- Portland Trailblazers. Likely rookie of the year point man Damian Lillard is a serious threat to torch the Knicks, who will have just arrived in Portland a day after a track meet with the Nuggets. Hopefully he will be hitting the rookie wall and the Blazers will have dropped completely from contention and not be at their best.
March 17- LA Clippers. On the road, against a 43 win team, on national TV, with the best point guard in the NBA. Tough one…
March 18- Utah Jazz. NY plays on the road, the day after playing the Clippers, against a team playing for its playoff life. Not good…
March 26- Boston Celtics. Fortunately the Knicks have finally proven they can win in Boston and they won’t have to face Rajon Rondo, but it’s the hated Celtics, in Boston. Never easy…
April 2- Miami Heat. What team do you least want to play, on the road, with the playoffs right around the corner? Yeah, me too…
April 3- Atlanta Hawks. This is just what you want the day right after playing the Heat, a road game against a good team. Sigh…
April 7- Oklahoma City Thunder. Much like in March, the Knicks will have to face OKC less than a week after playing the Heat, but this time they have to do it on the road.
April 11- Chicago Bulls. It’s bad enough that the Knicks will have to play on the road against a team that has beaten them four times in a row, but Derrick Rose may well be back in time for this game, just in time to take advantage of NY’s weakness against point guards.
April 12- Cleveland Cavaliers. Facing Kyrie Irving and company on the road, the day after a big game. Sound familiar?
April 14- Indiana Pacers. Yes the Knicks will be at home and on full rest, but who can forget the 125-91 blasting we just got from the Pacers and by this point Danny Granger should be back in full form to make matters worse.
So when people say the Knicks’ remaining schedule is brutal, not only are they correct, but they probably don’t even realize just how correct they are. As a longtime Knicks’ fan, I kind of expect them to find a way to lose every game by 80 points or on a last second three-pointer, but at the same time I keep hoping they will go on a 200 game winning streak. In this case, I think I’ll manage to be reasonably happy if they find a way to break .500 in their remaining games.