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How long can the Knicks keep winning?

10 in a row? Make it so.

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New York Knicks v Indiana Pacers Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Knicks’ bandwagon is running out of seats—secure your spot while there’s still time.

Heading into December, the New York Knicks were a depressingly average, 10-and-12 team, teetering on the knife’s edge on another wasted year. Would coach Tom Thibodeau get a pink slip for Christmas? Would Julius Randle be sent packing once trade season started on December 15?

After their 109-103 home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on November 30, Thibs told the New York Post, “I thought we did a lot of good things . . . It was a hard-fought game. It’s a make-or-miss league. We missed.”

This was the Coach of the Year two seasons ago? New York’s semi-bearded leader sounded less like Doctor Who and more like Mister Magoo.

Next up, the ’Bockers hosted the Dallas Mavericks on December 3 and were shellacked to the tune of 121-100. That stinkfest included a wretched 41-15 third quarter, for part of which the Mavs steamrolled the Knicks 29-5. The crowd at MSG booed. After this loss, Thibs told the Post, “You give a team like that a second and third crack at it, you’re going to pay and we did.”

Still not very reassuring, and the fans had had enough. Pitchforks were raised, torches lit. The angry mob texted each other for meetup locations, preparing to storm Manhattan. Not only were our heroes hopeless, but Donovan Mitchell and the Cleveland Cavaliers arrived at MSG the following day. Many expected the outcome of this game to be the proverbial nail in Thibodeau’s VHS-lined coffin. Another home loss would be the hammer of doom.

But . . . the Knicks won. And they limited the Cavs to 81 points.

A fluke, for sure, providing merely a stay of execution. And yet, New York de-feathered the Hawks three days later and kept them to 89 points. Two days later, they whomped the Hornets 121-102. Miraculously, the train has kept a-rolling.

Over the eight games since the Dallas debacle, the undefeated Knicks have achieved the league’s best defensive rating (98.9) and net rating (17.3). What’s more, they have been the league’s best rebounders (50.8 per game) and its second-best offensive-rebounding team (14.5 per).

After their recent slugfest in Indiana, the Pacers’ coach Rick Carlisle said, “Right now New York is as good as any team in the NBA.”

Damn skippy, Ricky. It helps to have Randle playing smart, efficient basketball, and surprisingly improved defense. And it helps to have Jalen Brunson, a point guard who has averaged 20.4 points, 5.6 assists, and 2.4 rebounds in those magical eight games. Oh—and shot 17-for-35 from deep for 49%. Great locker room guy, too. Thanks, Dallas.

The Athletic posted their power rankings this week, and New York has jumped four spots to 14th on their list. Zach Harper wrote, “This Knicks team is performing extremely well. They’re not making the same mistakes as last season. Quentin Grimes has entered the starting lineup and injected adrenaline into this team. The Knicks are good.” (Paywalled)

That clever ol’ Thibodeau had returned from his TARDIS with a formula for success: a nine-player rotation that includes Grimes starting at the two-guard position and setting the defensive tone . . . unleashing Immanuel Quickley and Deuce McBride to gnaw on opponents’ legs . . . going big-ball rather than small-ball with Isaiah Hartenstein playing alongside Jericho Sims to annihilate the other team’s back-up frontcourt. . . .

And it helps that RJ Barrett is playing better basketball at just the right time, too, averaging 21.8 points, six rebounds, and 2.5 assists during the streak. He told the Post, “We’re playing some really good basketball right now, sticking together on both ends. . . . We just got to continue that as long as we can.”

Which begs the question: How long can their hotness continue?

Last night they put the reigning champion Golden State Warriors on the rack, slaughtering them by 38 points while a national audience watched in horror. Their next two matchups include tonight’s game versus the Toronto Raptors (13-18), and Friday’s versus the Bulls (12-18). While not easy opponents, both contests are winnable—the Raptors have won only two of their last ten and will soon be sellers on the trade market; the Knicks already beat the reeling Bulls twice last week. Unfortunately, the news that Quentin Grimes is doubtful Wednesday night with an ankle sprain doesn’t help matters.

Winning both would give New York a ten-game winning streak heading into their Christmas Day game against the Philadelphia 76ers. Ten games. I swoon at the thought.

Don’t expect misty eyes from Ebeneezer Thibs, though: “Usually, when you start feeling too good about yourself is when you get knocked on your butt.”

Of course, he’s right. Who am I to question a twice-over Coach of the Year? Let’s be sensible, keep the horse in front of the cart, and focus on the next game. Still, it is fun to entertain the thought . . . ten in a row? Really Could happen.