Mitchell Robinson Credit: Bill Moore photo

The Knicks are ascending in the Eastern Conference standings at the most important juncture of the season.

After a stirring 109-94 win over the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden Monday night, the Knicks overtook the Brooklyn Nets for the No. 5 seed, a desirable position that moves them further away from the Play-In Tournament spots for teams ranked seventh through tenth. The Knicks were 36-27 when they hosted the 34-27 Nets at the Garden on Wednesday.

Brooklyn lost 118-104 to the Milwaukee Bucks at the Barclays Center on Tuesday, the seventh loss in their previous nine games. Conversely, the Knicks were on a six-game winning streak and 8-1 in their previous nine prior to facing the Nets. The Knicks have 18 regular season games remaining and will play the Miami Heat on the road tomorrow, followed by the Celtics on Sunday, this time in Boston. The Knicks will be back home on Tuesday to take on the Charlotte Hornets before embarking on a six-day, four-game West Coast road trip that begins next Thursday versus the Sacramento Kings.

Knicks guard Josh Hart, who was acquired in a trade with the Portland Trail Blazers on Feb. 9 and has improved the team’s depth and production on both ends of the court, said the upcoming slate of games starting with the Nets yesterday evening is pivotal.

“It is huge. It’s not a make-or-break week by any means, but we have to be locked in on both sides of the ball,” said the 27-year-old former Villanova star after a forceful 12-point, five-rebound, five-assist performance against the Celtics.

“Obviously, Thibs [Knick head coach Tom Thibodeau] and the coaching staff will make sure we are prepared, and we have to go out and execute. With Brooklyn, they are a team trying to find their identity right now, but they have some good pieces.

Spencer [Dinwiddie] is a big part of it and Mikal [Bridges], Cam [Thomas], Cam Johnson, Joe Harris, they’ve got guys who are really good players, so we have to make sure we come in prepared and focused and continue to build on what we’re doing.”

Consistent winning has engendered a collective self-assured attitude that has the Knicks believing they can successfully compete against the league’s best teams, the top two by record and the eye-test being the Bucks and the Celtics. When the schedule began last night, the Bucks had the No. 1 overall record at 44-17 and the Celtics were No. 2 at 44-18, one loss better in the win column than the Western Conference’s Denver Nuggets, who were 44-19.

Thibodeau and the players stress that if they stay true and committed to their established methods and blueprint, they will have ongoing positive results.

“We’re trying to stay hungry, not be satisfied, and get better every day. Finding ways to get better individually, also, so just trying not to be satisfied and take all that we can,” said guard Immanual Quickley on Tuesday. The third-year pro is a leading candidate for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award, averaging 12.9 points, four rebounds and 3 assists in 27.8 minutes.  

The return of Mitchell Robinson last Friday to the lineup after the center missed 14 games with a fractured thumb also has solidified the Knicks. They were 8-6 without Robinson, but 3-0 since his return prior to playing the Nets last night. Robinson had posted at least 10 points and 10 rebounds in all three games.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *