The Knicks, fourth place in the Eastern Conference at 35-28, are all but guaranteed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2012-13, but they are about to embark upon an extremely difficult six-game road trip that will test the team’s mettle.
According to CBS Sports, the Knicks’ magic number to clinch a spot in the play-in tournament is two, their magic number to clinch an actual playoffs is six, and their magic number to clinch a top four seed is nine.
New York has pleasantly surprised us all season; can they continue to do so during this treacherous Westeernce Conference road trip? Let’s take a look at the schedule.
Knicks at Rockets, Sunday, May 2
Houston no longer has James Harden on its roster, and John Wall is out with a hamstring injury, so the Knicks should really win this one. Of course, that’s assuming Kevin Porter Jr. doesn’t go drop 50 points again like he did the other night.
The Knicks rocked the Rockets by 22 back in February, 121-99, behind a balanced effort. Let’s do that again and kick off the road trip with a victory.
Knicks at Grizzlies, Monday, May 3
One night after the Knicks presumably defeat the Rockets, they’ll head to Memphis to take on Ja Morant and the Grizzlies. Memphis is tied for 8th in the West, meaning every remaining game is of the utmost importance.
Fortunately, the Knicks have RJ Barrett, who hopefully intends to one-up the guy who was drafted one spot ahead of him. The Knicks won the only other time these two teams played, taking an April 9th overtime matchup by a score of 133-129. Julius Randle notched his fifth triple double of the season that night, while Barrett and Immanuel Quickley each contributed 20 points.
This is a winnable game, but the Grizzlies won’t go down without a fight.
Knicks at Nuggets, Wednesday, May 5
Denver might be without Jamal Murray, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t an extremely intimidating opponent. Nikola Jokic may very well win the MVP, and the Nuggets have Aaron Gordon in the months since they last played the Knicks.
Speaking of the last time these two teams played, here’s hoping the outcome this time is different. The Nuggets torched the Knicks back in January, 114-89, behind 22 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists from Jokic.
Randle was great in the loss, finishing with 29 points (69% shooting), 10 boards and 5 assists. Do that again, Julius. And this time, hopefully RJ will contribute more than 9 points.
Knicks at Suns, Friday, May 7
The previous Knicks-Suns game just happened, and revenge in Phoenix would be oh so sweet. Chris Paul and Devin Booker were spectacular at Madison Square Garden on April 26, combining for 53 points, with CP3 nailing three clutch shots down the stretch to ice the game.
It’s only right that Randle, RJ, Quickley and Derrick Rose combine for 100 points in Phoenix, with Barrett knocking down a game-winner in Paul’s face. Make it happen, basketball gods. Thanks in advance.
Knicks at Clippers, Sunday, May 9
The Clippers are a weird team. Will both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George be playing? There’s no guarantee. If both are healthy, could the Clippers beat anyone on any given night? Most definitely.
On New Year’s Eve, Los Angeles clipped the Knicks, 129-115, with Leonard dropping a cool 28. Randle and RJ combined for 50. These Clippers will always be tough, but the Knicks have shown they can compete with anyone.
The Knicks should clobber them so hard that Kawhi decides to sign with New York in the offseason in order to become the missing piece.
Knicks at Lakers, Tuesday, May 11
Anthony Davis has been back for a bit, and LeBron James is expected to make his return this week, meaning the Knicks finish out the road trip against the defending NBA champions, potentially at full strength.
If AD and LeBron are both rolling, the Lakers have the advantage. Then again, the Knicks are one of the best defensive teams in the league and have been surprising the world all season.
New York actually beat Los Angeles on April 12, 111-96, although the Lakers didn’t have AD or LeBron, so it’s hard to take much away. On the other hand, the Knicks beat the Lakers on April 12, so surely they’ll beat them again.
Hopefully, the Knicks run roughshod over the west, going 6-0 and ending the road trip having eclipsed Milwaukee for third place in the conference. Realistically, many of these games will be difficult, and if New York can escape with a 3-3 record, it should be viewed as a success.
Following the road trip, the Knicks will only play three more regular season games before the playoffs. Playoffs? Yeah, playoffs.