The second half of the 2020-21 NBA schedule has been released, meaning we now know who, when and where the Knicks will play for the next few months as they make their pleasantly surprising playoff push behind All-Star Julius Randle.
The unveiling of the schedule for the second half serves as a reminder that we’re living in weird times. Because of the pandemic, this season is only 72 games long. The Knicks are seventh place in the East at 15-17 heading into Thursday’s matchup against Sacramento, meaning they’ve got 40 games left to sustain a spot in the postseason.
Here are details on the NBA’s Play-In Tournament, per the league. Knicks (15-17) are currently in 7th place in the East. If season ended today, they’d need to win one play-in game to make the playoffs: pic.twitter.com/3ECdlW47Lo— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) February 24, 2021
Will they make the playoffs? How tough is their schedule the rest of the way? Why is Tom Thibodeau so rigid with his rotations? Answers to some of those questions are contained in the schedule for the second half of the season.
The Knicks will be tested in March
Starting March 11, the Knicks kick off the second half of the season with a difficult four game road trip that includes Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving (plus OKC). Perhaps the Knicks will clobber the Bucks by 20 again, beat the Thunder and sneak away at 2-2.
Then the Knicks have a four game stretch at Madison Square Garden that features winnable games but isn’t going to be a cakewalk, with the Magic and Sixers coming to town, followed by two games in three nights against Bradley Beal, Russell Westbrook and the Washington Wizards.
March ends with another game in Milwaukee, a home game against the Heat, and a showdown with Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota. March sounds tough. Hopefully the Knicks are still hanging in there at this point.
By the way, the trade deadline is March 25. So maybe this is the point in the season where the Knicks have traded for some kind of star to pair with Randle. Or maybe they’ll be slick and snag someone who isn’t even on our radar. It certainly feels like this front office wants to do something to shake up the roster, doesn’t it?
The Knicks will also be tested in April
April begins with four games in six days, starting with a return to the Garden for Kristaps Porzingis, although whether he’ll be playing or not is but a coin flip right now. Then New York hits the road for games in Detroit, Brooklyn and Boston. The next few weeks include ferocious fellas like Ja Morant, LeBron James and Zion Williamson, plus another contest against Kristaps, this time in Dallas.
They do end the month with six straight home games, all of which could be had if RJ Barrett has it going and Immanuel Quickley is lighting it up (Pelicans, Hornets, Hawks, Raptors, Suns, Bulls). But by this point who knows what their record will be? And perhaps more importantly, is Frank Ntilikina still on the squad?
The Knicks will once again be tested in May
May, like March, comes in like a lion. Unlike the famous phrase, however, it does not go out like a lamb. A ludicrously long six-game road trip begins in Houston, and over the course of 10 days includes stops in Denver and Phoenix, not to mention ending with bouts in Los Angeles against the Clippers and Lakers. The regular season concludes with three games at MSG, with the Knicks playing the Spurs, Hornets and Celtics.
Being realistic, barring a crazy trade, even in a best case scenario, the Knicks will spend the entire second half of the season fighting to stay in the playoff race. But they certainly have a shot to make it. And who knows what might happen between now and the end of May? The Knicks might not be a triple-headed superstar behemoth like the Brooklyn Nets, but they’re in the hunt.
The Knicks will be on national TV six times, all on ESPN. No love for the Knicks from the folks at TNT.
An addition to this: the Knicks have six games on ESPN, not five. One was accidentally omitted in the schedule release and it’s April 16 against Kristaps Porzingis and the Mavericks https://t.co/ou0icVEWEu— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) February 24, 2021
According to Tankathon, the Knicks are right in the middle of the pack when it comes to strength of schedule. The website ranks their second half schedule 14th most difficult in the NBA. Orlando and Chicago both have tougher schedules, according to Tankathon, but every other team in the East that the Knicks might compete with for a playoff spot has an easier schedule, per Tankathon. You know what? That’s about enough about Tankathon for one blog post.
The first half of the season has featured a ton of lovely surprises, but the going only gets tougher going forward. Still, the Knicks have shown they are a team to be reckoned with this year, and any given game seems gettable if the right players get hot. As we await the second half of the season, let’s hope Randle spends the All-Star break talking up the Knicks, and perhaps recruiting an All-Star or two to join him in New York. It’s pretty nice here when the Knicks are winning.