Pre-playoff questions grow urgent for Knicks
With two tuneup games left in the regular season, the Knicks will soon turn their focus to shaking up the East in the playoffs. But after an unpredictable season (to say the least), the Knicks' first-round series may be brief if these three questions aren't answered affirmatively:
1. Can Amar'e dominate?
Amar'e Stoudemire has endured a disappointing 2011-12 campaign, with point (17.6) and rebound (8) averages that pale before the power forward's career marks. But after 13 games out with a bulging disc in his back, he looked like the rim-shaker of old against Atlanta on Sunday, scoring 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting - with eight of those baskets in the paint. He also grabbed 12 rebounds and made a game-saving block on Marvin Williams on the Hawks' final possession. Is that the Stoudemire that we'll see in the playoffs?
2. Is Woodson the guy?
Despite a litany of injuries, the Knicks are 16-5 under coach Mike Woodson since Mike D'Antoni resigned in March. The former Atlanta coach has made a case for removing his "interim" tag, and an upset of Miami or Chicago - or even a competitive series - may complete his case. He's been in this situation before; in 2008, his eighth-seeded Hawks took eventual champion Boston to seven games in the first round.
3. Will a facilitator emerge?
Since point guard Jeremy Lin's knee injury, five different guards have tried out as chief distributor. This is the time for 33-year-old Baron Davis to flash his former All-Star form. Carmelo Anthony (30.1 points per game this month) and J.R. Smith (15.8 ppg) are peaking at the right time. But who's going to get Smith, Anthony and Stoudemire the ball?