The NBA schedule makers have either been extremely benevolent to the Knicks or done them a grave disservice. Ultimately, the former or the latter will be determined by the Knicks themselves. Beginning with their unpredictably gripping 119-113 double overtime victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Madison Square Garden, 14 of the Knicks’ 20 games, concluding with the Portland Trailblazers March 1 at MSG, will be played at home.
The expanse, a little over six weeks, could be a season-defining period for the Knicks, who were 21-22 when they hosted the Utah Jazz last night (Wednesday) at the Garden. They were only 1.5 games behind the eighth-seeded Boston Celtics for the final playoff spot, with the Los Angeles Clippers on deck tomorrow night at home and a road date against the Charlotte Hornets Saturday evening.
The Knicks were 12-8 in their building versus 9-14 away from MSG. Maintaining that pace over the aforementioned 20-game sequence, a rate of four games over .500 at home, and factoring in their current road percentage, would place the Knicks firmly in the playoff hunt at 31-31 with 20 games remaining in the regular season.
But potential peril could be awaiting them. The Knicks then play 10 of their next 14 games in opposition arenas, including a five-game, nine-day trip from March 8 to 16 against Western Conference competitors. It will be an arduous and crucial cycle of games that could determine their postseason aspirations.
Staying in the moment, health is an essential factor. Carmelo Anthony is playing on a ginger right ankle that caused him to sit out the Knicks’ two games prior to Monday and rookie Kristaps Porzingis bruised his right foot late against the Sixers.
Anthony said his ankle prohibited him from “not being able to shoot with balance [and] push off” after shooting just 7-28 and logging 50 minutes Monday. “The things that I’m normally capable of doing, I couldn’t do today.”
“Each and every guy on this team is important in their own way,” said Knicks guard Arron Afflalo, the team’s second leading scorer at 14.2 points per game, after Monday’s win. We need everybody to be healthy.”