1. Has anything in particular helped the Knicks win eight straight games?
Marlowe Alter, Right Down Euclid Staff Writer: The rebirth of Amar’e Stoudemire since being inserted into the starting lineup has made a huge difference. Stoudemire has been terrific in eight starts, averaging 18.5 points on 59 percent shooting to go with 6.6 rebounds. The Knicks offense has been clicking on all cylinders, winning six games by double digits and scoring 107 points or more in six of the eight wins. New York is playing inspired basketball and has finally found a groove, though it took 60 games and may be too late to save a disastrous season.
Chris Manning, Right Down Euclid EIC: With Carmelo Anthony playing his best basketball of the season, and the Knicks getting production from the likes of Amar’e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton, the Knicks are maximizing their potential. But in their recent hot streak, the Knicks have only played one playoff teams, the Indiana Pacers. The rest of the teams are a mix of bottom feeders and teams on the playoff edge. So, in short, the Knicks have benefited from a mix of a soft schedule and getting the most out of role players.
Scott Davis, Buckets Over Broadway EIC: It’s been strange how the Knicks have suddenly just turned it around. It’s resulted, largely, from a really efficient starting lineup of Ray Felton, J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler. Anthony’s continued excellence on offense and Stoudemire’s sudden resurgence has helped that crew earn a 111.5 offensive rating. Their defense has been capable in this run, too, but the offense has resembled last season’s 54-win team. The quality of their opponents has helped, too.
2. The Cavaliers will likely be without Luol Deng and C.J. Miles today. How can Cleveland be creative and attempt to slow down Carmelo Anthony?
MA: Superstars have been having a field day against the Cavaliers. Kevin Durant lit them up for 35 efficient points on Thursday, while James Harden scored 37 on 15 shots in three quarters last night. I think ‘Melo will follow suit especially with the Cavs lacking any resistance without Deng and Miles. Tristan Thompson could get the nod when ‘Melo plays the four, but the Cavs only healthy small forward is the immortal Alonzo Gee. The only other options would be guards in Dion Waiters or Matthew Dellavedova, both of whom are far too small.
CM: This picture is how the Cavaliers defended Kevin Durant this week with no Deng or Miles. There is no hope, and if ‘Melo wants to, I think he could score 40+ with ease.
SD: I’m not sure there’s much that can be done to stop Anthony without Deng or Miles, but the Cavs’ best bet is to try and be really physical with Anthony. ‘Melo has a weird penchant for getting involved in one-on-one battles if someone is defending him well, and that takes away from his efficiency. If the Cavs can get him out of system ball and allow him to isolate more and go one-on-one, it’ll make his game less efficient.
3. What chance do you give the Knicks of sneaking into the postseason?
MA: New York (29-40) is four games behind Atlanta (31-36) in the loss column with 13 games to play (Atlanta has 15 contests remaining). The Knicks face the more arduous schedule down the stretch (the combined winning percentage of their opponents is .503 compared to the Hawks’ .486). I don’t think the Knicks have enough time to catch Atlanta, though I think New York has the more talented roster. I think the Knicks fall a game or two short.
CM: Here is the thing: The Knicks are playing a tougher schedule, but the Hawks are banged up. The Knicks are still hot and Atlanta is still recovering from a slide that sent them down towards the bottom of the East. The Knicks also have more of an incentive to push towards the playoffs. Playing in New York, trying to justify their big budget and keep Carmelo Anthony happy is more motivation than Atlanta has. I’ll still say Atlanta holds on, but it wouldn’t shock me if the Knicks make it in somehow.
SD: As well as the Knicks are playing, their chances of getting into the playoffs also hinge on either the Atlanta Hawks or Charlotte Bobcats flopping down the final stretch. The Knicks also have an April schedule full of playoff-bound teams, so it won’t be an easy ride. The worst part, as a fan, is that the Knicks were capable of this all season. Right now, I wouldn’t say I’m too hopeful for the playoffs, but the Knicks are a weird team and their fortunes work in ways I can’t comprehend so they may very well sneak in.