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Knicks face first big test of Woodson era against Sixers

Mar 21, 2012, 12:56 PM EDT

New York Knicks interim head coach Mike Woodson gives instructions to players during their NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers in New York Reuters

This is the reality of the Eastern Conference — you don’t want to be the seven or eight seed. You don’t want to face the Bulls or the Heat in the first round. That promises a short stay in the postseason.

The Knicks are currently the eight seed. The easiest route out of that hole is to leapfrog the Celtics and pass the 76ers, who lead the Atlantic Division but are only four games ahead of the Knicks. (Don’t look behind you Knicks, but the Bucks are just half a game back as the nine seed and have won 6 games in a row.)

Win the Atlantic and you are the automatic fourth seed (at worst) and avoid real trouble until the second round.

So the Knicks game against the 76ers Wednesday night is huge for them — win and they are three games back, something that can be made up in the 19 games that remain (although the 76ers have the easier schedule the rest of the way). Lose, fall five games back, and that dream is pretty much shot.

This four game winning streak of the Knicks — all by 14 points or more — has inspired dreams in New York because of the way they are doing it: sharing the ball, playing hard on defense, executing. All the things they didn’t do under Mike D’Antoni. Carmelo Anthony all but admitted he is trying harder under Woodson. We could discuss what that says about ‘Melo as a leader but fact of the matter is it doesn’t matter — right now it is working on the court. These Knicks are actually fun to watch. And seem to be having fun again.

Wednesday night is the measuring stick for the Woodson era — the 76ers blew the Knicks out of the water the last time these two played (March 11, the fifth loss in the Knicks six-game losing streak that led to D’Antoni leaving). It was one of those typically sad Knicks efforts where the team seemed to go through the motions without passion. Things are radically different now.

The Knicks are 0-6 on the second night of a back-to-back when the other team has rest (which is the case Wednesday night). But the Knicks have been breaking all kinds of trends lately.

Break this one and they have a chance of getting out of the 8 seed, getting out of the way of the two best teams in the conference. They get a real chance at advancing out of the first round.

Lose and the Knicks will find themselves in a fight with the Bucks just to make the playoffs and get the joy of the Bulls or Heat in the first round.

It’s a big game for the Knicks hopes Wednesday.

  1. pbanach01 - Mar 21, 2012 at 1:24 PM

    The Sixers better come ready to play because the Knicks are going to ball tonight! It will definitely be a good measuring stick for the Knicks and their recent style of play.

  2. pxeeks - Mar 21, 2012 at 1:31 PM

    76ers will win BIG. Thank you!

  3. leearmon - Mar 21, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    Overall nice report, however I still have an issue with the headline. How can tonight be New York’s “…first big test…” ? The Pacers currently have a better record than the 76ers (2 fewer loses) and New York dominated the Pacers on back to back nights. In any event, there is a huge race going on between the Celtics, Knicks and Bucks. Boston is only 3 games ahead of Milwaukee with a huge showdown tomorrow night. Boston then faces Philly on Friday so if the Knicks could pull this one out it they would have a tremendous shot of either A. catching Boston, at 7 or B. gaining more ground on the sixers and the division (currently the season series with Philly is tied at a game a piece).

    Lastly I think the reality in the Eastern Conference is avoiding the Heat at all cost. While Miami AND Chicago are far and away the best two teams in the East, looking at some of the Bulls’ players struggles in the playoffs any smart basketball observer would tell you, you’d much rather roll the dice vs the windy city.

  4. phillyphan08 - Mar 21, 2012 at 2:50 PM

    I AGEE, SIXERS WIN BIG. A backup coach does not change the way a bunch of overpaid, lazy, spoiled, playground ball players play…. Knicks r a JOKE:)

  5. phillyphan08 - Mar 21, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    Sixers win big

  6. dolphins4 - Mar 21, 2012 at 11:33 PM

    The Philadelphia 70 brick layers

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