We're in the playoffs!! We're in the playoffs!! AAAAAAAHHHH!!!
Wait, the season's not over yet?
Where and when? Tip off is at 7:30 at Madison Square Garden.
Are they good? They are now. New York was awful for most of the season but things turned around on March 5 when they snapped a seven game losing streak by beating the Minnesota Timberwolves, 118-106. Since then they've won 12 of their last 15 games and find themselves in the eighth seed. They're not out of the woods yet though. New York is 33-43 and Atlanta is 32-42. While New York's record is technically better, they've also lost one more game than the Hawks so technically New York could win the rest of their games and still not make the playoffs.
What are they good at? Surviving. New York was left for dead months ago and there was open talk of Carmelo willingly walking away from a team that he demanded a trade to only three years ago. With no draft picks and an aging, injury prone supporting cast around Melo, the Knicks could have easily folded. Instead they battled back, Tyson Chandler got healthy, Amare Stoudemire's post-game began to click and the team bounced back on the strength of the frontcourt, youngsters Tim Hardaway Jr. and Iman Shumpert, and Grandpa Prigioni.
What are they bad at? Defense. Chandler isn't as mobile as he once was, Amare is limited by knee injuries and the team has very little athleticism or length outside of Shumert and Hardaway. While Prigioni and Felton can be competent, neither is anywhere close to being a stopper. As a result, the Knicks are 25th in the NBA in defensive rating per basketball-reference. To make matters worse, head coach Mike Woodson built his reputation on his team's defensive abilities, so they could in theory be even worse if someone else was the coach.
Who is the heart of the franchise? While Melo gets the headlines, as a Knicks fan (they're number two behind Washington in my heart - what can I say, I have a thing for train wrecks) on the outside looking in, I've got to go with Amare Carsares Stoudemire. He came to the franchise when they whiffed on Lebron and Wade and instantly became the toast of the town. The pre-Melo Knicks, led by Stoudemire, Danilo Gallinari and an at-his-best Raymond Felton were one of the most exciting teams in recent memory. They weren't great, not by any stretch of the imagination, but they were a playoff team with some upside in a basketball city that had been shat on for a decade. Amare played his heart out but just couldn't click with Melo and the team's lack of a real pick and roll point guard. Eventually injuries caught up to him and the man with the uninsurable contract was left for dead, at least in terms of his basketball career.
This year, with very little expected of him, Amare has had a mini-resurgence, and he's done it in the most admirable way possible: hard work. Since he can't explode to the rim any more, Stoudemire has worked relentlessly on his post game and is now a viable scoring threat on the block. Over the last two seasons he's averaging 20 points per 36 minutes and shooting 56% from the floor despite playing next to a center who never leaves the paint and a bunch of perimeter players who are far too in love with their ability to dribble around the court and launch jumpers.
What happens if New York loses? Their odds of making the playoffs will get just a little bit slimmer. Ditto for the odds of Carmelo signing an extension. So, you know, no pressure.
Who's going to win? I'm going with the Knicks. Sorry ladies and gents, but New York is hot and fighting for their playoff lives while the Wizards could experience a bit of a let down following their thumping of the Celtics and guaranteeing of a playoff spot. If Washington wins, it's going to be due to some sick man to man defense on Carmelo and the Washington perimeter players hustling back to close out on New York's shooters.