Tuesday night's virtuoso performance from Carmelo Anthony and the shooting clinic from Steve Novak and J.R. Smith still has fans of the New York Knicks buzzing. Taking a gander around the interwebs this morning, there's the typical slight overreaction to a late season, exciting win over a hated rival (who also happens to be a damn good team). With a playoff spot becoming more certain by the day, the focus shifts to the potential first round vs. the Miami Heat or the Chicago Bulls. There aren't too many rational basketball people who think the Knicks will actually beat either team in a seven game series, but most of those people know that the Knicks would be better off facing the Bulls. With wins like last night, they decrease the chances of matching up with the top seeded Bulls. It will likely be Knicks-Heat. Yikes.
But fear not, Knicks Nation. While New York rightly will be the massive underdog either way, there are some characteristics the Knicks possess that give them a chance. Regardless of who the Knicks indeed play once the postseason begins, here are some things to hang your hat on:
1. The Knicks' record/style of play under Mike Woodson
Beating the Celtics on Tuesday brought the Knicks to 14-5 since Mike Woodson took over for Mike D'Antoni. While NBA GMs are forwarding D'Antoni's resume to their WNBA counterparts, Woodson is in the process of reshaping the Knicks into a playoff-type basketball team. They're tough on defense, use their fouls, cause turnovers and...get this...run their offense directly through best player. Novel idea, eh? D'Antoni's spacing, ball, movement, green-light for all offense has been replaced by a more conventional half court isolation style, featuring Carmelo Anthony. Anthony is playing some of the best ball in the league right now, and with 10 assists on Tuesday proved that he can find the open man. Will this continue when Amar'e Stoudemire returns? Elephant, meet room. But hey, we're talking about the positives here!
2. The Knicks' home record this season
21-11! That's pretty darn good. The crowd in the Garden is as electric as any NBA arena ever, and that will only intensify once the playoffs start. Let's just say, for argument's and dream scenario's case, that the Knicks steal a road win in the first two games of the first round. Coming home with a chance to take a series lead? Place will be bonkers. Also, now that I'm suspending reality and dreaming up fun scenarios, can we please see the Miami Heat trailing 3-2 in the series coming back to MSG for Game 6? Would LeBron James soil himself right at midcourt?
3. The bench
J.R. Smith and Steve Novak aren't going to give you a combined 50 points every night. But they are both damn good shooters who, if they get hot like they did Tuesday, could steal a game or two for the Knicks in the playoffs. For the Knicks to do anything this postseason, they'll need Anthony to keep up his stellar play. But last Sunday's loss to the Heat proved you always need ancillary scoring from your bench and role players. In Smith and Novak, the Knicks have two guys they can bring off the bench who can give them an instant spark. In rare times, like against Boston, they can shoot their team to victory.
4. Tyson Chandler is fairly awesome
And consistent. And a proven playoff winner. And whether the Knicks play the Heat or the Bulls, he'll be the best big man on the court. That's a good position to be in in any playoff series.
5. So, apparently, is this Carmelo Anthony guy
Sports fans and pundits are incredibly fickle, which is totally acceptable because that's what makes sports debating fun. But you know the Carmelo detractors are just waiting in the wings for when the Knicks get eliminated. They'll be screaming from the rooftops things like "Told you so! He's not a superstar! He's selfish! You can't win with him! The Knicks are better off with Jeremy Lin!" Please. With how Anthony is playing right now, in this moment, who else would you want with the ball late in a close game when you need a basket? (And how often in the playoffs do we see this?) Maybe he's not the No. 1 choice in basketball, but he's up there with Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce and Dwyane Wade. When you have one of those guys on your team, someone who can get you two points when you desperately need it, that's a gigantic asset to have in the playoffs.
So yeah, in conclusion, the Knicks probably aren't going to get out of the first round. But they could. Right? Right.