The New York Knicks couldn't have asked for a better start to the Mike Woodson era. Although it's an era that doesn't figure to last very long, the Knicks are 3-0 under their interim coach since he took over after the resignation of Mike D'Antoni. With 21 games remaining, the Knicks will need to keep their impressive run going if they plan on solidifying a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Heading into Tuesday's home clash with the Toronto Raptors, the Knicks own a half-game advantage over the Milwaukee Bucks for the final playoff spot. If the Knicks want to keep that spot or climb the standings, home games against teams below them in the standings have to end up as wins.
Since Woodson took over for D'Antoni, the Knicks have outscored their opponents by a total of 71 points in three games. The offense has been very balanced, as the highest single-game scoring output in the past three games was J.R. Smith's 23 mostly garbage-time points against the Portland Trail Blazers last Thursday. The Knicks have gotten production from all across the lineup, with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire shooting efficiently for the first time all season, the bench producing with the likes of Smith and Steve Novak, and the consistent presence of Tyson Chandler remaining.
There's also Jeremy Lin, who many thought would flounder with D'Antoni gone. However, Lin led the Knicks in Saturday's win over the Indiana Pacers with 19 points, and filled up the statsheet in one of the young guard's most impressive all-around performances of the season. The lineup likely would have remained unchanged anyway, but the recent hamstring in jury to Baron Davis all but ensures Lin will be the unquestioned starter the rest of the way.
At 21-24, the Knicks still have a ways to go if they plan on making any sort of deep playoff run. Any run would have to start with getting out of the seventh and eighth positions in the East, which would likely result in a first-round matchup with either the Miami Heat of Chicago Bulls. The newfound energy that Woodson's Knicks have employed should push them past teams like the Raptors, who enter the contest out of the playoff picture at 15-30. But, of course, the Knicks won't go undefeated the rest of the way. Unfortunately, their recent six-game slide that resulted in the resignation of D'Antoni put them behind the eight-ball. There isn't a lot of room for error.
Earlier this season, under D'Antoni, the Knicks lost a number of games against sub-par teams at home. Perhaps on Tuesday we'll see if the Knicks can keep the energy and effort level high when the stakes seem a bit lower.