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Will the Knicks take advantage of the soft schedule ahead of them?

Trouncing minnows is a must, and New York will have that chance.

New York Knicks v Washington Wizards Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

All but one NBA team reached the 35-game checkpoint this season on Monday, with Oklahoma City and Houston the final two franchises to join the club and Charlotte the only squad left in the cold with 34 games played through yesterday’s slate.

The Knicks have played 36 games with their 37th coming later today as they will host the Portland Trail Blazers inside Madison Square Garden before going on the road to wrap the week up with visits to Dallas and Memphis.

Looking at the Knicks schedule from October through last weekend, New York has hosted 14 games (10-4 record) while playing a league-leading 22 (11-11) matchups on the road. Only the Atlanta Hawks have played just 14 games in their stadium across the NBA, and only the Utah Jazz have the same number of away matchups as the Knicks to date.

The Hawks are 14-21, the Jazz are 18-20, and the Knicks are 21-15 through Monday’s slate.

Only the Wolves (.714) and the Celtics (.778) have a better winning percentage than the Knicks (.583) while hosting fewer than 18 games entering Tuesday's matchups. No team in the whole league has a better overall Win% than New York while having played at least 20 games on the road so far.

Now that the hard part of the schedule is over, the Knicks will play inside MSG in 13 of their next 17 games, including seven of their next 10 matchups from Jan. 9 through Jan. 27. Starting next Monday, the Knicks will play six of seven games in MSG against just one on the road in that span—at Brooklyn of all places.

On top of that, the Knicks will play a lot of sub-.500 teams for the remainder of the month, and they will face three teams with serious problems come February in Indiana (lost Tyrese Haliburton to a hamstring strain injury on Monday), the Los Angeles Lakers (carried by 57-year-old LeBron), and Memphis (bound for a tank having lost Ja Morant for the remainder of the season).

This is how the Knicks’ schedule looks for the next few days and weeks, including opponent and record:

  • vs. Portland (10-25, won’t have Deandre Ayton available)
  • at Dallas (22-15)
  • at Memphis (13-23, won’t have Ja Morant among many others)
  • vs. Orlando (21-15)
  • vs. Houston (18-17)
  • vs. Washington (6-30)
  • vs. Toronto (15-21)
  • at Brooklyn (16-21)
  • vs. Denver (26-12)
  • vs. Miami (21-15)

That list includes five sub-.500 opponents, and a few others that could be boasting losing records if things go wrong for them in the next few days (mainly Houston and Miami).

New York has amassed a ridiculous 14-1 record against losing teams—the one loss a 117-113 defeat at Utah back on Dec. 13—though they know they must not goof around and play down to their opponent’s level of play.

“Don’t play with your food,” Julius Randle said after the win over the Wizards last Saturday, one that took the Knicks more of an effort than it should have. “Take care of what you’re supposed to take care of and just keep improving. The basketball gods have a funny way of rewarding you or humbling you. We just try to approach every game the right way.”

Obviously, there are two sides to the Knicks’ record-coin: New York is 7-14 against teams with a .500+ record, and that should improve a bit if the Knicks want to prove they’re legit.

Since trading for OG Anunoby, however, Tom Thibodeau has led his team to an impeccable 4-0 record including beating two top-6 teams in the league and top-3 in their respective conferences: Minnesota (25-10) and Philadelphia (23-12).

Since the arrival of Anunoby, the Knicks seem to have found a way to stop teams from dumping buckets in bunches on them. It’s been four consecutive outings in which New York has limited opponents to 106 points at most, including stopping the 76ers at a meager 92 points scored last Friday.

On average, the Knicks have given up just 100.8 points in that four-game span. Before the arrival of OG, the Knicks gave up an average of 124.8 points in 14 December games, and an even more damaging 127.6 points in the final five games of the month—of which they won just one on Christmas against the Bucks, 129-122.

With games against teams hurt by injuries or simply not talented enough, New York is facing an extraordinary schedule from now to the All-Star break.

For starters, the Blazers won’t have Deandre Ayton available against the Knicks tonight with the big boy nursing a knee injury for the past two weeks and listed as in Portland’s Monday injury report. Jabari Walker and Matisse Thybulle were also listed as “questionable” to play.

The Mavericks will host the Knicks after that next Thursday and they might also be missing their center rookie Dereck Lively II, who has already been ruled out for Tuesday’s contest against Memphis.

Speaking of the Grizzlies, they announced on Monday that Ja Morant will undergo season-ending surgery on his right shoulder after suffering a subluxation on that arm at a training session last Saturday. The Knicks will face Memphis with the visitors not having Ja, Brandon Clarke, Derrick Rose, and Steven Adams available and with Jaren Jackson Jr. also in doubt with a right knee contusion at the time of this writing.

In December, the Knicks were scheduled to play 11 games on the road to just three home. We feared the team going something like 4-10 having to play the likes of Milwaukee (three times), Boston, Phoenix, and both Los Angeles teams. The squad did enough to put together a 6-8 on their way to open the 2024 calendar year with a 17-15 overall record and still above .500.

It’d be naive to do the same—only now in reverse—and claim the Knicks will go 8-2 in their next 10 games.

However, and that being said, New York remains undefeated in the OG Era and hey, this team may never lose again! Let’s hope the Knicks take advantage of the “soft” schedule and enter the ASG break boasting a .620+ record and in solid possession of a top-4 seed in the East by mid-February.