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The Knicks will face a tough slate in April

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It won’t be easy.

NBA: New York Knicks at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks enter the month of April with a perfectly average 24-24 record. Now, being .500 this late into the season wasn’t something most Knicks fans expected so this is still a good place to be, all things considered. But for the Knicks, who have one of the NBA’s hardest schedules coming up, the push for the playoffs does not get any easier. The combined winning percentage of the teams the Knicks will play to close out the season is .505, which is the 10th-highest in the league.

ESPN

If the Knicks want to make it to the playoffs, April may be their toughest stretch yet. They will be tested by the Mavericks to start off the month. While they get an easy game against the Pistons to follow that, they will then have to face off against the Nets, Celtics, Grizzlies, Raptors, and Lakers in an eight-day stretch. The Nets could have Kevin Durant back by then, and even without him, the Nets have proven to be a formidable opponent. The last time these two teams met, it was a close game that went right down to the wire (and a questionable no-call). This game should be another exciting one between the inter-city rivals, but only if Durant doesn’t play.

The Celtics are struggling of late, but their dynamic duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will be a handful to stop. The Grizzlies, with their blue-collar play and tough defense should make this a close game. This one figures to be a low scoring, close affair. Now, the good things is that the last two teams they will play during that span, the Raptors and Lakers, have roster questions. The Raptors look like a mess, but they still have talent, and they have dominated the Knicks for years.

The Lakers may still be without both Anthony Davis and LeBron James for that matchup, which would greatly benefit the Knicks and their chance to get a win. That being said, with all of those teams fighting for playoff seeding themselves, the Knicks will have their work cut out for them.

Many of the Knicks’ remaining games will be against teams they are in direct competition with for the last few playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. This means that a lot of these games will have big implications and should be very hard fought. While it will be a tough stretch, it could also be looked as a good thing as it allows them to either make up ground easier, or separate themselves from the pack if they can string together some wins.

An April 20th battle against the Hornets should be a big game for both teams. Losing LaMelo Ball will hurt the Hornets, but Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier should be able to step up and keep the Hornets right in the thick of things. The very next day, the Knicks will host the Hawks, who currently sit 0.5 games below New York in the standings. The Knicks close out the month with games against the Suns and Bulls. The Chris Paul and Devin Booker-led Suns will be heavily favored in this matchup. The Bulls made the big deadline move to acquire Nikola Vucevic, so they will be going all-out for a playoff berth.

April might be the most important full month of basketball the Knicks will play since making the playoffs in the 2012-13 season. Because the bottom of the Eastern Conference is so close, a bad month could see the Knicks being the 11th or 12th seed, while a good month could mean they climb to the fourth seed. It will most likely go a long way in determining where they end the season, so all eyes will be on them. Regardless, Julius Randle will get to prove once and for all, just how good he is, and the young core of RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley and Mitchell Robinson will get some great experience playing in high stake games and the veterans, Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, Nerlens Noel, Reggie Bullock, Alec Burks, and Elfrid Payton will have a chance to use their experience to try push this team over the edge.