Remember just a few weeks ago when the Knicks were desperately clinging to a playoff spot, with the pesky Milwaukee Bucks rearing their ends, trying to sneak in? Well, now those threats have been neautralized as the Knicks clinched a playoff berth with the Bucks’ loss to the Indiana Pacers last night.
However, now it’s a matter of exactly what seed the Knicks will clinch.
Currently, the Knicks are sitting pretty comfortably in the seventh spot, one full game ahead of eight place Philadelphia, and three games behind sixth place Orlando. Ideally, the Knicks would like to catch the Magic for that sixth seed, and it’s not entirely impossible.
Yesterday, it was announced that Dwight Howard will miss the remainder of the season by undergoing back surgery. The Magic are also missing Hedo Turkoglu, so their cupboard is a little bare these days. Furthermore, the Magic have a fairly tough schedule ahead of them. Here’s a comparison of the Knicks’ and Magic’s remaining games.
For New York: Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers, Charlotee Bobcats.
For Orlando: Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets, Charlotte Bobcats, Memphis Grizzlies.
However, the Knicks may need some help from old Lady Luck in order to snag that sixth seed. Orlando will either have to lose three of four or all four games, while the Knicks win all four of their games. With the Hawks and Clippers on the horizon, that may not be an easy feat. If that series of events does take place, though, it would send the Knicks and Magic into a tie, but since New York owns the tie-breaker (they won the season series 2-1), the Knicks would take the sixth seed.
All of this is, of course, to try and avoid the Miami Heat or Chicago Bulls in the first round – teams largely considered the top dogs in the Eastern Conference. With all due respect to the Indiana Pacers (who have had a scorching April), the Knicks feel that they would have a better chance to advance in the playoffs if they could face Indiana in the first round. Besides the obvious bonuses of advancing a round in the playoffs, it also would supposedly bring a healthy Jeremy Lin back to the team, which would fruther help the Knicks’ chances of making a deep playoff run.
But all of the above may be wishful thinking. If the Knicks’ dream scenario of the Magic tanking and the Knicks prevailing doesn’t come true, then in almost all likelihood, the Knicks may begin the playoffs facing either the Bulls or Heat. Some people prefer to see the Bulls with a rusty Derrick Rose, especially considering three of the four matchups with the Bulls were tight games (the Knicks winning one of them). Others would prefer to play the Heat, hoping for a redux of lockout luck.
Either way, whether the Knicks win out for the rest of the season, or find themselves playing the conquerers of the East in the opening round of the playoffs, the road won’t be easy.