Knicks’ potential playoff matchups: An early look

The Knicks can be on nationwide tv quickly when their seven-year “postseason’’ drought — and almost definitely playoff drought — ends in mid-May.

While the Knicks have been relegated to MSG Network throughout most of their beautiful season, sources say Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau wouldn’t thoughts doing extra nationwide media to speak up his unsung group that owned the eight-best report within the NBA coming into Tuesday.

Thibodeau appeared on ESPN’s “The Jump’’ Tuesday whereas the Knicks huddled in Denver. “Thibs’’ was on a Rocky Mountain excessive, touting virtually every participant on the roster as taking part in effectively. Unsolicited, he bragged about Knicks proprietor James Dolan.

“We’ve gotten great support from our owner,” Thibodeau mentioned. “He’s given us every part we requested for.’’

Despite their 12-1 streak, the Knicks nonetheless may miss the precise playoffs and wind up within the lottery. But the percentages have gotten slimmer. Their future not appears to be like to be the brand new play-in occasion which is able to function the 7-10 seeds in every convention.

The Knicks have maintained fourth place — 1½ video games forward of fifth-place Atlanta, two video games forward of Miami and three forward of Boston coming into Tuesday.

Jimmy Butler, Trae Young and Kemba Walker
Jimmy Butler, Trae Young and Kemba Walker
Getty Images (3)

If the season ended in the present day, the Knicks would have home-court benefit within the first-round, 4-5 battle versus Atlanta. The different likeliest first-round matchups are Boston or Miami.

Some scouts consider — regardless of the Celtics’ playoff expertise — the Knicks are higher off going through Boston than Atlanta, regardless that the Knicks swept the Hawks within the season collection 3-0.

The Knicks have been swept by Miami within the common season (0-3) and have an identical identification to Pat Riley’s defensive membership. In addition, Miami is aware of what it takes being playoff-tested after rumbling to The Finals within the Orlando bubble final fall. Avoiding Riley, most scouts agree, is most popular.

“I don’t love the Celtics this season,’’ one expertise evaluator mentioned. “There’s clearly a chemistry problem there with the coach and his gamers. Marcus Smart will play arduous however I don’t belief that group.’’

Knicks vs. Celtics

Boston was thought-about loaded for an additional Eastern Conference run even after dropping Gordon Hayward to free company. What occurred? Injury-riddled and missing cohesion, the Celtics stand at a pedestrian 34-31.

The outdated rivals have met twice — each in Boston. The Knicks destroyed the Celtics 105-75 at TD Garden on Jan. 17 earlier than Boston pulled out a 101-99 squeaker within the rematch principally due to a late RJ Barrett turnover.

This could be Barrett’s first playoff collection — as will probably be for Julius Randle. Yes, it’s a priority.

The Knicks and Celtics will play for the ultimate time of their regular-season finale on the Garden May 16.

The Celtics have had COVID-19 points and level guard Kemba Walker has not led them to nice heights up to now. On paper, the Celtics nonetheless are higher with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Walker as their high three. They every have playoff résumés. But for now, Derrick Rose is taking part in sharper than Walker.

One expertise evaluator believes beginning taking pictures guard Reggie Bullock is the important thing to beating Boston or Miami as he appears to be like to lock down Brown or Jimmy Butler. “They want an enormous playoff from Bullock,’’ the expertise evaluator mentioned. “I don’t know if I belief that but.’’

Though the Celtics barely edged the Knicks within the final assembly, it was earlier than the Knicks went on their tear.

“They’re taking part in with a lot extra confidence since that recreation,’’ the expertise evaluator mentioned.

“Boston is funky,’’ one other NBA scout mentioned. “If I’m the Knicks, I’d wish to play them. The playoffs can be much less tempo and the Knicks will be capable to grind it out. They have an opportunity to maneuver the needle.’’

Knicks vs. Hawks

The Knicks swept the season collection, however many observers consider if famous person level guard Trae Young didn’t sprain his ankle late within the third quarter, the Hawks wouldn’t have blown their eight-point lead final month. The Knicks hung victories on Atlanta within the first two conferences, however that was earlier than coach Nate McMillan took over for Lloyd Pierce. Randle averaged 37 factors towards Atlanta, with two 40-point contests.

Despite excessive preseason expectations, on Feb. 28, the Hawks have been on the verge of imploding at 14-20 with their energy ahead John Collins disgruntled and nagging accidents to free-agent signees Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic hurting the movement.

Now it’s coming collectively. The edge for the Knicks is the Hawks, too, are playoff neophytes.

“Now you can see that even the young guys who were used to losing, they’re getting better with that, too,” mentioned Gallinari, a former Knicks lottery decide.

Knicks vs. Heat

This could be so thrilling Jeff Van Gundy might come out of teaching retirement and be part of Thibodeau on the sidelines as a freelancer.

The Heat have taken out the Knicks thrice this season — on Feb. 7 (109-103), Feb. 9 (98-96) and March 29 (98-88). The excellent news is Rose missed two of the three video games. The one he performed was his season debut as a Knick and he didn’t have a apply underneath his belt.

But Thibodeau would need no a part of the monster he inbuilt Butler — or the Erik Spoelstra-Riley tandem. Thibodeau’s rules of selflessness are Riley’s rules.

Riley’s Heat have been injury-wracked and turnover-prone. Butler has performed in simply 48 video games. So the Heat added Victor Oladipo on the commerce deadline and he’s performed in simply 4 video games due to knee points.

If wholesome and with All-Star large man Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro reverting to Disney bubble kind, the Knicks may very well be in hassle. But let’s not keep away from the very fact the Knicks are a lot greater than Thibodeau’s protection. They don’t, like Miami, flip the ball over. And the Knicks’ 3-point taking pictures is not a fluke — now third within the league at 39.1 p.c. Miami is ranked twenty fifth (34.9).

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