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Amar’e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith move into starting lineup, and New York Knicks roll

Mar 11, 2014, 11:11 AM EDT

Charlotte Bobcats v New York Knicks

The New York Knicks – of all teams – have the Eastern Conference’s longest active winning streak at four games.

Let’s get this out of the way. Their competition in the span:

  • at Timberwolves
  • vs. Jazz
  • at Cavaliers
  • vs. 76ers

Not exactly murderers’ row.

But the fact that the win streak has mostly coincided with Mike Woodson’s latest twist to the starting lineup at least offers hope the Knicks have found a combination that works for them. Amar’e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith moved into the starting unit with Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton.

Chandler missed Monday’s win over the 76ers due to personal reasons, but beating Philadelphia – by far, the worst team in the NBA right now – might just skew the sample anyway.

In the previous four games, including the Detroit loss, New York’s starting lineup had a net rating of +16.1 – producing like the equivalent of the NBA’s second-best offense (scoring 109.4 points per 100 possessions) and best defense (allowing 93.2 points per possession).

But that was in just 65 minutes, and though we’re relying on an even smaller sample here (29 minutes), that same unit was -20.6 (98.8/119.4) prior. Going from incredibly awful to incredibly great certainly lends support to the idea the quality of opposition has been the biggest change.

However, even if the results are skewed toward favorable by the recent schedule, that lineup rates well over the full season (106.3/101.2/+5.1 in 95 minutes). In 102 minutes last season, the grouping was 112.0/111.8/+0.2 – nothing special for that 54-win team, but pretty excellent for this year’s dismal squad.

If Felton-Smith-Anthony-Stoudemire-Chandler can sustain even average production, the lineup would be great progress for this season’s Knicks. The way the Hawks are free falling, losing 14 of 15 before beating the Jazz on Monday, that could even be enough for New York to make the playoffs.

The Knicks have 17 games remaining and trail Atlanta by 3.5 games, so the odds are still slim. But New York has at least a puncher’s chance with a competent lineup.

The schedule remains soft for another week – at Celtics, vs. Bucks up next – so the Knicks have an opportunity to develop confidence in this new starting lineup. For a team that has played so uninspired most of the season, that could be a big deal.

Have the Knicks really turned a corner? I doubt it. But if they can trick themselves into believing they have – and keep cleaning up against the dredges of the league – they could possibly make this playoff race interesting down the stretch.

  1. jolink653 - Mar 11, 2014 at 11:42 AM

    I don’t think they’ll make the playoffs, but I’m really just hoping they can avoid winding up with a high lottery pick. If they can win enough to reduce their odds and get them far away from the top 5-7 picks, I’ll be a lot more okay with the way this season has gone. Last thing I want to dwell on is missing out on Wiggins, Parker or any of the other top prospects after this disaster of a season.

    • jtaylor089 - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:08 PM

      You must not really be a Knicks fan if you don’t know we do not have a first round pick this year. Do some research please.

      • nyheels29 - Mar 11, 2014 at 1:27 PM

        I think that’s clearly his point.

        He doesn’t want them to get a high pick because he knows they will not be making that pick.

        Thus, “Last thing I want to dwell on is missing out on Wiggins, Parker or any of the other top prospects after this disaster of a season.”

      • jolink653 - Mar 11, 2014 at 3:14 PM

        Uhhh yeah, that was kind of the point of my whole post….

  2. RavenzGunnerz - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:17 PM

    what’s with Pablo Prigioni? the guy is very reluctant to shoot?

    it’s just the inner bias in me thinking that anybody from argentina is good at shooting the ball lol.. :)

  3. cantonbound13 - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:34 PM

    So you mean you put your 5 best players in the starting lineup together? Woodson’s a genius.

    • nycityknicks - Mar 11, 2014 at 1:07 PM

      only took him 4ever

    • sportsfan18 - Mar 11, 2014 at 7:17 PM

      Well, when one of the best players is J.R. Smith… uh…

  4. nycityknicks - Mar 11, 2014 at 1:09 PM

    I don’t see us making the playoffs. Woodson took 5 months to use this line up smh. 3 in half games behind 8th with 17 games left. Still a possibility but i don’t c it happening.

  5. acurat - Mar 11, 2014 at 1:23 PM

    This team lacks the outside shooting it had last year – they traded most of it away for “World Metta Peace” which has added a big nothing to the franchise. As long as Dolan controls everything, you cannot expect much from this team. All you can hope for is the NBA to interfere because of concern over a lousy franchise in a major market important to the NBA, and they force Dolan to take a step back from running and ruining the franchise.

  6. csbanter - Mar 11, 2014 at 2:08 PM

    It’s been a long time since Knick fans had a week like this one ,a mini winning streak and the possibility of hiring a basketball genius such as Phil Jackson. Hopefully they get that last spot, and give the Pacers or Heat a battle.

  7. dablakdrphil - Mar 11, 2014 at 3:45 PM

    So they swtich the starting line ups (something that should’ve happen 2 months ago) and now they have a slim chance on making the playoffs and getting beat by the Pacers or Heat LOL…If Woodson would’ve used this line up a long time ago in what has become one of the weakest Eastern Conference in the last 20 years the knicks could have developed earlier Chemistry and snuck into a 5 or 6 seed where the matchup could favor them much better

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