When the New York Knicks embarked on an eight-game winning streak that ended almost a month ago, there was skepticism on my part that they had really shown any demonstrable improvement. It seemed to me that they were just beating up on the worst teams in the NBA, which merely placed the Knicks as the best of the worst teams in the league. Eventually, I thought they would come crashing back down to earth, brought down by the inevitable pull of regression to the mean.
Considering the remaining teams left on their schedule after they were done facing the drags of the NBA, I predicted that the Knicks would win a lot less often and would have a difficult time making the postseason, no matter how much the Hawks seemed intent on keeping them in the playoff picture. But the Knicks really did turn the corner starting with March and their level of play has increased to a level that makes them garnering one more victory every time they take the floor a decent proposition.
Even though the Knicks have ended their season facing seven games against playoff-bound teams, there has been no letdown that has derailed their winning train, as they have gone 4-2 over their last six games, with their latest victory coming on Tuesday in a 109-98 victory over the Brooklyn Nets. The victory will not help the Knicks make the postseason since they have already been eliminated from the playoff picture, but it will serve to make one wonder why they blew so many games throughout the season.
If the Knicks could build a 16-point lead at the end of three quarters over the fifth-best team (by winning percentage) in the Eastern Conference without star player Carmelo Anthony, then how on earth could they lose by 31 points to the lowly Los Angeles Lakers? Perhaps the Nets did not take the game seriously with their playoff seed already locked up, but the Knicks still put in a yeoman's effort by outscoring them by 12.1 points per 100 possessions, which occurred with the Nets playing their starters for the majority of the contest.
The Knicks were still spearheaded by the incredibly efficient shooting of almost every player who took a field goal attempt for the team and posted one of their highest effective shooting percentages of the season in securing another win. Being able to play so well on offense without their franchise player, albeit against an opponent that does not always play stat defense, and combine that with a reasonable facsimile of playing competent defense can lead one to shaking their head in frustration at how the Knicks can tease.
A complete victory like the one the Knicks scored on Tuesday should have been one of many for the Knicks and not such a rare occurrence that they will end the season with a winning percentage below .500. More than anything, Tuesday's victory shines a more unfavorable light on the whole season of the Knicks since it demonstrated what the Knicks are capable of achieving on the basketball court.
Their problem has been not demonstrating their full capabilities in enough games, and that is why their next game will be their last game of the season.