In a matter of only a few days we have seen the newly constructed New York Knicks go from complete ends of the NBA contender spectrum. On Friday night, they were the defensively challenged, lacking chemistry, and lackadaisical Knicks that many expect to make a quick exit in the first round of the playoffs. Yesterday, they were a team loaded with elite talent and experience who rose to the occasion in a big spot, won a defensive struggle, and showed they could be very dangerous in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Allowing 115 points to the Cavs and then allowing 86 points to the Heat? Go figure.
There may not be much consistency from this team for the duration of the regular season. They have 25 games left to get as comfortable with each other possible, while Mike D'Antonio shuffles around his rotation. Similar to Friday, there will be ugly moments. They will come when this team starts feeling too good about themselves and forgets the defensive effort it takes to contend with the big boys in either conference.
However, when the playoffs do come around, and last night's game against Miami certainly felt like a playoff game, this is a team who has two of the NBA's best players on their roster. Both have playoff experience and success in the loaded Western Conference under their belt. Beyond that, Chauncey Billups, the man on a mission to show he wasn't just a throw in part of the Carmelo Anthony trade, is a NBA Finals MVP who has built a reputation of taking over in big spots.
If this team could find a way to play defense the way they did last night on any type of consistent basis, they can go toe to toe with anybody in the East, especially Dwayne Wade and his never hit a big shot sidekick. Of course it remains a big if when it comes to the Knicks and defense but don't write off their ability to rise up in a big spot, no matter how many inconsistencies they show in the regular season.
The Knicks get another shot on Tuesday to show themselves as a legitimate contender in Orlando. They also get two more cracks at Boston in the regular season. 25 games in total to tune up for post-season. If last night was indication of what this team was capable of in that type of atmosphere, late April is going to have this entire city captivated by basketball in way it hasn't been since Larry Johnson was knocking down 4-point plays.