Knicks About To Be Tested

Savor it Knick fans. This has been the best 12 games you’ve had since 1995. After a 3-8 start, New York has gone a sizzling 11-1, something they haven’t done in 15 years. The Knicks have won 10 of 11 twice since then (in the 2001 and 1997 seasons) but to find the last time they’ve won 11 of 12 you’d have to go back to the 1995 season. For younger Knick fans and older Knick fans with poor memory that’s the year they won 55 games … and lost to the Pacers in the playoffs when Ewing missed a layup.

As a New Yorker, it’s a good feeling to compare this current team to one from the Ewing era. However that warmth in my chest might be short lived during the Knicks next 12 games because the schedule gets tough. Over the next dozen matches, New York will face Boston, Orlando, Chicago, Denver, Oklahoma, and Miami twice. That’s seven games against likely playoff teams, then add two road games versus Washington (tonight) and Cleveland. Compare that to the last 12, where only two teams (Hornets and Hawks) are currently aligned to make the post-season.

So it starts tonight against the Wizards, and New York is likely to beat one of the worst teams in the league. But in a week’s time they’ll have faced Denver, Boston, and Miami. And that’ll only be the start of what will really test the Knicks’ mettle.


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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of KnickerBlogger.net. His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

49 thoughts to “Knicks About To Be Tested”

  1. While I think the team has shown they are legitimately good, these games will give us an idea as to whether we can expect more than a one and done in the playoffs. I know that sounds insane to be talking about this early but if this team doesn’t make the playoffs it will be a colossal letdown for me at least unless there are injury issues to guys like Stat and Felton. Of the next 12 Wash, Cleveland and Indy better be wins. Chi, Den, Bos, Mia x2, Orl, OKC, SA, Phoenix: is 4-5 really unreasonable? Chicago, Denver, Phoenix and OKC are not any sort of juggernauts lately, so maybe just maybe. They get 8 more (mostly) tough ones in the two weeks after that Lakers, Portland, Utah, Sacramento (whew), Phoenix, Houston, SA, OKC. That must be 15 playoff teams from last season in the next 20. Lets’ hope they fare better than the Jets. Doh.

  2. Well I was scheduled to work tonite and be off sunday afternoon, but I had to change to working saturday and sunday and be off tonite, and I’m torn which I would have rather had. Tonite Amar’e can tie the franchise record and the Knicks should win, but Sunday is the first of the “where do we stand games”. Definitely going to follow the game from work but won’t be able to watch at all.

  3. misterma: I think it’s really cool that Justin Kubatko is in the New York Times.

    Yes, Mr. Ma, I agree. It’s nice to see something smart, more than the Howard Beck whining in the Times.

    I think looking back on the last month, it’s been a nice run for Knick fans, but it might have been even more instructive for the NBA.

    They’re about to start contract negotiations and thinking about small things like the cap. It’s nice to remind them what a successful team in NYC looks like.

    I’m not necessarily for removing the cap entirely. If Dolan could spend like Steinbrenner, we might all have a hangover. But I also remember how silly it sounded back in 2003 to have the NBA complaining of low ratings as the Spurs beat the Nets.

    The fact is that San Antonio and Northern Jersey are both small markets. If small markets can compete with the largest markets, we get heart-warming stories like Oklahoma City, but we also get teams like the 2003 Nets that can’t even fill an arena for the playoffs when they are playing spectacular ball.

    It helps the league to have large bball-friendly cities playing great ball. They’ve loved the last few Lakers-Celtics finals, and they’re now recalling the taste of a relevant NYC club. It can’t be too bad.

  4. The stretch we’ll face is incredibly hard, and I really feel that being around .500 after it ends will be a victory, but I think we have a chance against everyone on a given night, which is something that we Knicks fans couldn’t say for most of the last seasons.

    An example happened yesterday, the Sixers, a terrible team, almost beat the Celtics because Jodie Meeks and Lou Williams shot the lights out from 3 and Brand was a beast in the boards.

    We too have a bunch of guys who can catch fire from the outside, and if Stoudemire plays like he has this past 12 games, there’s no reason we can’t beat those guys.

  5. There’s no way to deny that we’ve had an easy schedule until now. But, it has helped us build confidence and momentum, and if that helps us to win a couple of games against some of the better teams that are coming up, I’ll consider that an assist by the NBA scheduler.

    I hope they can carry this momentum all the way to the end of the playoffs.

    Go Knicks.

  6. The Knicks have been winning most of these games without Ronny T down low. I know MDA says he likes the starting lineup better with Stat at Center, but I think Turiaf is gonna be huge against teams like Boston with some very scary big men. KG is back look out!

  7. I predict a 3-7 for the next 10, with Amare’s production going down significantly and the team looking tired when facing teams that play defense and put a big guy on him (Boston is a good candidate). The Knicks will desperately need Gallo and Toney Douglas to ramp up their production and become consistent offensive threats to deal with the upcoming schedule. If Gallo scores 18+ on every game, the Knicks have a chance. If he disappears during games, the Knicks will go down in flames.

    Defense in the paint will be the Knicks’ achilles heel when facing the better teams. 3-7 is my realistic expectation, but I’m hoping they go 6-4!

  8. I’m just happy that the Knicks appear at least prepared to compete during this tough stretch.
    Honestly, this run has been terrific, not only because they won, but because it got them functioning as a team. It seems obvious to me that they are ready.
    It is also obvious (maybe I’m misguided) that they will hold their own during this stretch and they will steal a number of games.
    If they play .500, I see it as a victory.

    We’re all going to be pleasantly surprised.

  9. Next 10:
    WAS, DEN, BOS, MIA, CLE, OKC, CHI, MIA, ORL, IND

    Really there’s only 2 teams we clearly *should* beat (WAS & CLE). IND is no pushover, though that game is at home and you could maybe at that to the should-win category. There’s Abasi’s 3 wins, I guess.

    So, 7 games against playoff teams that most people would say are better than the Knicks, but keep in mind that only 2 of those are on the road. Say we go 3-2 at home and 0-2 against MIA and ORL on the road, with no letdowns against the weaker teams, that’d put us at 6-4 for the stretch.

    I’ll be pretty happy if we can go 6-4.

    Thing is, schedule stays tough. One of the links posted in this thread (the nytimes one?) suggests that the Knicks have the second most difficult schedule *the rest of the way*. Yikes.

  10. I think the NY inferiority complex needs to end. We are 14-9 which puts us in the same league as the Miamis, Chicagos and OKCs of the world. The only game we “should” lose is Orlando on the road, then we “should” beat Cleveland and Washington and then the rest are coin flips, whoever has the better game should win. If we play well over the next ten we should win between 6-8, if we play poorly we should win between 3-5.

    I don’t buy the weak schedule nonsense. Miami has three good wins: Orlando, Utah and Atlanta. Chicago has three good wins: Denver, Dallas, and OKC. OKC has four good wins: Chicago, Utah, Boston, and New Orleans. We have two good wins: Chicago and New Orleans.

    Records against teams with winning records:
    NYK – 2-3
    CHI – 3-8
    MIA – 3-6
    OKC – 4-5
    DEN – 5-4

    I don’t know how we’ll do but I truly believe that how we do is contingent on how we play. We can play with any of these teams short of Orlando and I think it will come down to whoever has the better game, we don’t need to play out of our minds to beat teams like Chicago and Miami.

  11. @13

    “I think the NY inferiority complex needs to end.”

    It’s not an “inferiority complex” – it’s a reality. The Knicks are two-three weeks removed from a 3-9 record (or something like that); they have been terrible for an entire decade.

    So, every reasonable observer has to be a bit cautious – and that’s why there is almost univeral agreement that the upcoming schedule will give a clear indication of how good this team really is.

    I’m happy we’re winning and hope the wins continue – but I’m also aware that winning has a way of masquerading many faults (like the terrible defense the Knicks play), so I’m cautiously optimistic at this point.

    That said, I this is the best talent we have fielded during the last ten years and this is an excellent starting nucleus for a future great team. We are still 2 or three players short of competing with anyone, but the base is there. And yes, I think we can beat anyone on any given night, but I don’t think we have enough talent on board to do it on a consistent basis.

  12. Before the season started I looked at the schedule through the 1st 20 games and decided that with all the easy opponents there was no reason at all the Knicks shouldn’t be 10-10 or 11-9. They made it to 11-9 despite the miserable early losing streak. I did notice on all the power rankings that they’ve had one of the easiest schedules in the league so far based on opp win %-which may be slightly offset by extra road games (I do not expect them to get through the season with a better road % than home-the road record will come down to earth and I certainly hope the home record will improve).
    Looking at the next 10 games, I’d be very satisfied with 5-5, thrilled with 6-4.
    Expectations are constantly changing, especially in a media hotbed like NYC, but, at this point, I think we all pretty much expect playoffs as a 7-8 seed.

  13. Can’t see why Denver would be the favorite on Sunday. We only lost to them, in Denver, by a few points, and that was after a miserable first half by us (it was the 2nd half in Denver when our good play streak began, and that streak has carried on to this moment).

    Denver is only 3-7 on the road. I think we should assume we win that one, and be rightfully disappointed if we don’t.

  14. A side note re” Amare vs David Lee”:
    I like DLee-a lot. I still could not understand any basketball fan thinking he was or is just as good as Amare. Yes, his rebound rate is better but really that is his one and only advantage.
    Lee’s indifference on defense was a part of the losing culture here for several years and yet he seems to get off scot free on that point. For a guy with decent quickness and excellent hops, I was always amazed how he almost never blocked a shot.
    For all the criticism about STAT also being a poor defender, it is clear that he cares, and he does come up with timely blocks that seem to inspire his teammates and swing momentum.
    He is also a MUCH better crunch time scorer.
    Overall, he is a much more aggressive in your face type of player, a much more explosive scorer, and a much better leader.
    If STAT can just learn to play better with fouls, and the team continues to perform well, he will be a legit MVP candidate.
    He can have a bad game and put up 20-9-1 which is a good game for DLee

  15. @Ben R

    I’ve always thought that an “inferiority complex” is better than overconfidence, especially when it’s completely justified. Our opponents so far have had the lowest win% combined of all teams (that’s a fact). As you said, we’ve had two quality wins. Those quality wins, while they did come on the road, have been against teams that didn’t have their second best player (Boozer and West). If we roll into this thinking the Knicks are unbeatable studs, the crowd of “Fire Dantoni/Walsh!” and “Gut our roster!” comes roaring much faster than thinking the alternative. I think the best approach, as someone mentioned a few threads back, is to be “cautiously optimistic.” This new Knicks team is good (better than the start of our season showed), but probably not as good as our latest streak would show. The good news about this is, if I’m proven wrong, I’m happy, if not, I’m not scrambling to change.

  16. Abasi – I agree we haven’t done very much but neither have Chicago or Miami. We have a better record than Chicago and have already beaten them, and Miami has had many lapses this season and is weak defensively in the middle which should open things up for Amare. I don’t know who will win these games but I think at home I would put us as slight favorites and on the road slight underdogs.

    OKC and Denver might be a little better than us but I think at home it’s about even odds.

    We have not proven anything but we are a brand new team it’s hard to really know how good we are. So far I think we are as good as our record and I have no reason to believe that we are any worse at this point than Miami or Chicago.

  17. As much as I am loving Amare this year, I think his shotblocking is hiding the fact that there is a SERIOUS problem with his PF/C defense.

    It’s just about every game that someone has a career night against the Amare/Turiaf/Mozgov/Chandler pupu platter. Amare has some clutch highlight blocks, but seems like he is a horrible 1-on-1 defender. The only reason he seems to be so much better than Lee is because he is so much better on offense. The PER-against for Amare is 23.4 when he plays PF (there are only 3 PFs other than Amare averaging a PER greater than that – Nowitzki, Gasol, and Love) and 21 when he plays C (Howard, Horford, Duncan, and Shaq average more than that). Somehow he is turning the Bargnanis, Amir Johnsons etc. into guys that are possible HOFers. For Pete’s sake, the eFG%-against for guys he is guarding is 61% (PF) and 57.8% (C). Hopefully when Turiaf is healthier he can take some of the defensive load off.

  18. @ Frank

    Agree 100%. Our interior D is terrible. When we went through that terrible 3-8 stretch, we were creaming the rest of the league in blocks per game. But if you watched the games, people were scoring on us in the low-post at will (and still are).

    We knew Amare is a sub-part defender coming into the season, but he’s just blown us away with his offense so far. He’s very quick for his position, but he’s not strong enough to stop bigger guys backing him down to get position.

    That’s why Timofey is my great hope to round out this team =)

  19. Frank – I follow boxes scores and such and used to always notice over the years that PFs would be getting their season highs against Phoenix. BTW where did you find those numbers they used to be how Hollinger rated defense when he did the BasketballProspectus?

  20. He is also a MUCH better crunch time scorer.

    The only difference in their crunch time scoring last year was that Amare got fouled a lot more than Lee (he averaged 9 free throws per 48 minutes of crunch time to Lee’s 2). They took almost the same exact amount of field goals and made the same percentage (Lee shot a slightly better percentage, .648 to .622).

    There was a bigger difference in Nash’s crunch time scoring and Amare’s than there was between Amar’e and Lee (Nash averaged roughly 44 points per 48 minutes of crunch time to Amar’e’s 28 and Lee’s 22).

  21. Frank, you are right. And I am not trying to say Amare is a good defender-or even an average defender-only that he cares, that he tries, and that he is a huge upgrade on DLee at both ends.
    I just got tired of fans singing Lee’s praises so much while he was an integral part of horrible teams year after year. I still think he is a good player, but the difference between the two goes way beyond anything the numbers reveal, and I think it’s fair to include leadership, toughness and swagger as part of a players true value.

  22. Brian, I don’t know how you could tell, but is Nash’s crunch time skewed b/c if Phoenix is ahead and the other team has to foul odds are the ball will go to Nash.

  23. In David Lee’s career year, he had a 22.2 PER and .163 WS/48.

    That’s an off year for Amar’e. Amare’s career PER is 22.6 and his career WS/48 is .183.

    So never mind the intangibles– Amar’e is quite clearly a superior player only if you count the “tangibles.”

  24. JK47: In David Lee’s career year, he had a 22.2 PER and .163 WS/48.That’s an off year for Amar’e.Amare’s career PER is 22.6 and his career WS/48 is .183.So never mind the intangibles– Amar’e is quite clearly a superior player only if you count the “tangibles.”  

    That last sentence didn’t really come out right… But I think it’s obvious that Amar’e is easily a better offensive player, a better defensive player and also brings intangibles like leadership and charisma to the table. Lee is a better rebounder, but we’re actually a much better rebounding team this year than we were last year, so it’s not like we’re even missing Lee’s rebounding all that much.

    AMAR’E 4 EVA

  25. This is like, so much more important than a Lee-Stat debate – for serious. Like, Gallo is like totes dating Michelle Trachtenberg! Who’s she? OMG! She was like totally “Dawn” on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and now is on “Gossip Girl”!!! She’s like a total skank on that show. I mean, like seriously.

    So awesome and cool, right???

    http://www.nypost.com/p/pagesix/michelle_knicks_danilo_gallinari_W7yIGUJr66glngx49jCTVK#ixzz17k13agl2

  26. The Knicks right now are 18th in defensive efficiency. The Knicks do not have a terrible defense. Im the biggest 90’s Knicks fan their is (hell I think the 95 Knicks, who was the last team to go 11-1, would kill this current Knicks team) so trust me many times I cringe watching this team play defense because Im just not used to watching good Knicks teams playing bad defense.

    However this current Knicks team has the ability to really step up their defense in the 2nd half of games and at times look like a very good defensive team. There have been many times where you look at the box score and see the opponent shooting in the mid 50’s% approaching half-time then when the game is over they finish shooting in the mid 40’s%. Terrible was the last few Knicks teams, this current team while not very good on defense is definitely not terrible on defense and it is reflected in their stats and their current record.

  27. I know this is a stats-oriented site, but the numbers lie frequently and very seldom will they paint an complete picture of the complex game of basketball. It’s my opinion that the most accurate assessment is the good old-fashioned experience along with our own eyes.

    you don’t need numbers to know that amare has always been a much better player than David Lee. Lee is a player to be admired and respected because he is a class act in every sense. Lee, like Ewing, gave the Knicks 100% of his talent every night. Amare is just a better player, just like Lebron is better than Amare and Jordan is better than Lebron. God is better than Jordan. And Marbury better than God(-awful)!

    :-)

  28. Sure, and if someone made the statement “Lee is better than Amar’e,” I’d be right there to disagree with them, as it is not true.

    Similarly, “Amar’e is a MUCH better crunch time scorer than Lee” is not true, either.

    And yet we never actually see the former, but we see all sorts of similar statements to the latter.

  29. So awesome and cool, right???

    That’s hilarious. Now you know he’s like, “Please don’t send me to Denver!”

  30. BigBlueAL: The Knicks right now are 18th in defensive efficiency.The Knicks do not have a terrible defense.Im the biggest 90?s Knicks fan their is (hell I think the 95 Knicks, who was the last team to go 11-1, would kill this current Knicks team) so trust me many times I cringe watching this team play defense because Im just not used to watching good Knicks teams playing bad defense.However this current Knicks team has the ability to really step up their defense in the 2nd half of games and at times look like a very good defensive team.There have been many times where you look at the box score and see the opponent shooting in the mid 50?s% approaching half-time then when the game is over they finish shooting in the mid 40?s%.Terrible was the last few Knicks teams, this current team while not very good on defense is definitely not terrible on defense and it is reflected in their stats and their current record.  

    Agreed. I feel like “pace” has something to do with the many power forwards going off against us and Phoenix… There are just more chances for teams to get easy baskets in transition and the “bigs” are usually the beneficiaries of easy transition baskets if there is a pass off of the other teams break.
    Of course nights like the one Bargnani had aren’t as easily explained since he was scoring from virtually everywhere – we just didn’t have an answer for his skill set.
    Honestly I think what D’Antoni is preaching is that “we practice the fast break more than you and this is how we will beat you. It might mean giving up some easy baskets and offensive rebounds but it’s a winning formula because we have better athletes and better shooters on the floor at all times.”

  31. Honestly I think what D’Antoni is preaching is that “we practice the fast break more than you and this is how we will beat you. It might mean giving up some easy baskets and offensive rebounds but it’s a winning formula because we have better athletes and better shooters on the floor at all times.”

    That is D’Antoni’s philosophy to a tee.

    That said, I don’t think the system (and I’m sure D’Antoni would agree) means that you should be this bad defensively. I agree that 18th is not that bad, and the pace confuses people into thinking the Knicks don’t (and the D’Antoni Suns didn’t) play defense at all, but you can definitely improve and still be within the system. You can plug in a guy like Camby and you will see the defense improve, as Camby is a plus post defender, something that neither Gallo nor Amar’e is, and Chandler isn’t when he is in the post (he’s a plus perimeter defender, though).

  32. Amare has been scoring huge in the 4th quarter of games. His last 2 games he is averaging 16 pts in the 4th Q. Career stats are not the issue at this juncture. Amare is a better 4th Q player than Lee.

    On that note, I have been waiting for the appropriate time to share this anecdote. This spring I was walking in the Meat Packing district on a beautiful spring evening. Who do I see standing in front of a pizza joint none other than Knicks asst coach Phil Weber. He was only too happy to have someone recognize him and want to stop and chat. He was really nice and, in fact, more open than I thought on his opinions about what the Knicks should do (get Rudy Gay and Amare) and what he thought of players. So at the time I was very into the idea of keeping Lee cuz I, like many of us, really loved him and liked the idea of keeping the home grown talent. So I asked Phil about Lee and whether he was worth keeping compared to some others he mentioned (specifically Amare). He was very candid. He said that Lee was a hard worker and a good offensive player. He also said very specifically that the staff felt that Lee absolutely dogged it on defense especially in defensive rotations because he did not want to lose his shot at getting rebounds and padding his stats. And he said that Lee had no defensive toughness at all and he did not see him developing that (he has played terrible D in GS btw). Bottom line was that the staff was not high on Lee as a complete player and they were certain that he shirked his D responsibilities in favor of getting rebounds. This was Phil Weber the Knicks number one assistant telling some random fan he met on the street. Wow I thought. The reason I did not post this before is frankly I thought it might get leaked out and I was waiting till after it mattered and until we were having a good Lee discussion (which I knew would come on the blog). Goes to show that stats just dont always tell the whole story. This is the honest truth.

  33. Amare is a better 4th Q player than Lee.

    Sure, just not “a MUCH better 4th Quarter scorer.”

    I wouldn’t disagree with the former, I do (and did) disagree with the latter.

  34. @ Brian, not to argue, as I have read many intelligent posts of yours, but Amare is a HUGE upgrade over Lee-at both ends and that gap is even wider towards the ends of games. He wants/demands the ball in the 4th quarter, and has led the Knicks to several wins by dominating the 4th quarter. I am not nearly the stat geek that many here are, but without consulting any reference materials-but having watched almost every Knick game for many many years, I can not recall even one game in his years here that DLee took over a game in the 4th quarter. Not one.
    I am not trying to knock Lee, I just got really sick of people here saying that the money would be better spent on Lee than Amare, and while I am at it I’ll go on record as saying STAT is a much better,and more dynamic player than Bosh as well. Again, the stats are close but the players are not.

  35. BigBlueAL: Not to pile on but I just looked at David Lee’s stats so far this season.Ouch.  

    Well, he did briefly contract vampirism from Wilson Chandlercula.

  36. Abasi: @13“I think the NY inferiority complex needs to end.”It’s not an “inferiority complex” – it’s a reality. The Knicks are two-three weeks removed from a 3-9 record (or something like that); they have been terrible for an entire decade.
    So, every reasonable observer has to be a bit cautious   

    I don’t mean to come off offensive saying this because it’s clear you are a passionate true fan, but this thought process is bullshit. It’s a losers mentality. Not saying I don’t understand it or that it isn’t rational, it is just overly so. Do we really need to see the wounds to believe? (doubting thomas reference)

    Look, I’ll toss some things out that directly counter the “you’ve had an easy schedule”

    1) the Knicks added 10 new players this season, this was going to lead to a tough “get to know you” phase (hence the six game skid). They are gelled right now in a way that I didn’t think would come for a few more month at soonest.

    2) They have already overcome adversity- A six game skid is a tough thing for ANY team to overcome. And starting out with it is mentally tough as well. To bounce back 11-1 is simply amazing. So yeah being 14-9 may not be impressive to most people but look at the reaction to the heats five game streak over subpar competition. I think 11-1 is far more impressive.

    3) The schedule has not been as easy as it looks. Yes if you judge only by winning pct it’s easy to say they had it easy. But look closer. They have played more road games than anyone, AND (more importantly imo) they have played (and will play) more back to back games than anyone. I don’t care who the team is, back to backs and road games are tough. And I just don’t really feel like any of those other teams could have done better than what the Knicks have done.

    They’ve given you plenty of reason to believe, but I guess you…

  37. I am not nearly the stat geek that many here are, but without consulting any reference materials-but having watched almost every Knick game for many many years,

    Exactly – if you did, you’d see it wasn’t as big of a difference as you thought. Which is why stats are helpful, especially for guys like Amar’e, who we didn’t get to see every night until now.

  38. not to be a negative nancy but this tough stretch wiil probably prove to us knick fans just how much we need ‘Melo to go to the next level…when the chips were down, Amare basically dissed his team, is that what a leader does?
    …not that Melo is that much more of a leader.

  39. Lee has been playing half the year injured. His left arm is still has no strength and he can’t mix it up inside or going after rebounds like he used to. The elbow is still bleeding bad during and after the games and he can’t bend his arm. It’s really sad because he was really starting to get into a rhythm in the NY game, 28 and 10. He outplayed Amare in the end and was the best player on the floor. Until Lee’s arm heals and he gets back in sync this is how it’s going to be. Hopefully, Amare can stay healthy.

  40. @47, there are 23 games in that time span.
    The Knicks have played 24 games.
    So, you’re saying that, at best, they’ll 23 and 24 by the end of January…winning only 8 of the next 23 games (34%).
    The very bad start was 3-8 (27%).

    I think you’re prediction…that at best the newly-confident and road-tested Knicks are only 7% better than the Knicks that started the season is off the mark.

    Most of the “experts” call the Knicks a .500 team…if they win 11 of the 23 (under .500) then they’ll be 26 and 21.

    Personally, I think they’re likely to win 12-15 of those games.

  41. I think they’ll go 1-7 for the rest of December.

    Then 5-10 for January.

    At that point they will be 22-26.

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