Knicks could end playoff drought vs. Lakers, LeBron James

LOS ANGELES — Tuesday evening at Staples Center could be the right time and place to do it.

Break the seven-year playoff drought in opposition to the defending champion Lakers with LeBron James on the court docket, making his return from another sprained ankle.

It’s the right Hollywood story and yet one more notch within the belt of Tom Thibodeau’s lovable Knicks, who’ve scripted a pandemic season out of nowhere.

You couldn’t get odds in Las Vegas that on May 11, the Knicks would face off in LA in opposition to the Lakers brandishing the identical 38-30 document.

James, who practiced absolutely Monday and earlier admitted the NBA is best when the Knicks are related, isn’t going the entire season with out going through New York.

“If he performs, it is going to be cool,’’ RJ Barrett stated. “I don’t suppose he’s retiring anytime quickly. And I’m going to be right here for some time. So I’ll see him once more.’’

The magic quantity for the Knicks to interrupt the seven-year horror present is down to 2.

If the seventh-place Celtics lose Tuesday to Miami, the Knicks would take the court docket needing a victory to clinch at the very least the sixth seed and keep away from the play-in event to make the playoffs.

The Celtics, who could be a first-round opponent, obtained a large blow Monday with the torn wrist ligament that ended Jaylen Brown’s season.

The Knicks could clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Lakers.
The Knicks could clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Lakers.
NBAE by way of Getty Images

Entering the season, moving into the play-in because the tenth seed would’ve been thought-about successful. This is a franchise that wasn’t even in a playoff race after the All-Star break the previous six laughingstock seasons.

So the Knicks are taking part in with home cash. Thibodeau’s urgency has them grasping.

“We’re not completed with what we’re doing,’’ stated Derrick Rose, who’s taking part in at near his MVP degree of 2011. “We have a purpose. We wish to maintain getting higher alongside the best way. But [clinching the playoffs] could be massive. But on the identical time, Thibs at all times talks about going by the end line.’’

Even if the Knicks can’t take out the Lakers on Tuesday, they’ll have three extra probabilities on the Garden after they end out the common season with San Antonio, Charlotte and Boston. But how candy it could be to do it in LA earlier than the celebrities on the socially distanced courtside seating.

After shutting down the juggernaut Clippers at Staples Center on Sunday, the Knicks have already clinched at the very least a .500 document on this six-game, 11-day Western swing that was deemed a possible season killer. They are 3-2 with wins over Houston, Memphis and the Clippers.

“Sometimes the schedule is in your favor, generally no,’’ Thibodeau stated. “Whatever you’re going through, to have the psychological toughness to get by it and achieve success, these are habits it’s a must to construct all 12 months lengthy. You can’t abruptly get right here and say, ‘Oh, we got to be tough.’ It doesn’t occur like that.’’

They’ve wowed the NBA with their toughness, grit and sturdiness all season — from the lunch-pail video games of beginning taking pictures guard Reggie Bullock, beginning heart Nerlens Noel and his backup, Taj Gibson, to the second-year leap of Barrett, to the All-Star season of Julius Randle.

The Knicks don’t beat the Clippers with out Bullock stepping up Sunday with 24 factors, hitting 5 of 12 3-pointers and staring down the LA bench after one key make late within the third quarter.

“He’s sort of the unsung hero,’’ Thibodeau said. “Every night he’s guarding a tough opponent. He never stops working on the defensive end. Reggie’s shooting has been off the charts. And so he’s got to continue to do that for us. It opens up so many things.”

The finest a part of these Knicks — together with their rugged, contest-every-shot protection — is the unselfishness on offense.

The final Knicks staff to make the playoffs was Mike Woodson’s Knicks of 2012-13, however that was constructed solely round Carmelo Anthony’s scoring exploits and isolation baskets.

And these Knicks collapsed within the second spherical in opposition to Indiana.

Now they’ve Randle, whose ball motion on double groups is infectious. The Knicks spray the ball round till they get an open shot. For each era of Knicks followers, it’s a pleasure to look at.

Somewhere, Red Holzman is smiling.

“When we call a play for you, it doesn’t mean it’s your shot,’’ Thibodeau said after the Clippers win. “It means it’s your responsibility to make the right read. If you’re being double-teamed, share the ball. That’s one thing this team has done all year long.”

They aren’t the Seventies Knicks. But Tuesday these Knicks can earn their place in staff historical past by lighting hearth to essentially the most miserable interval of Knicks basketball.

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