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Knicks winning streak still doesn’t impress Shaq and Barkley

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RJ Barrett New York Knicks
New York Knicks’ RJ Barrett (9) drives past Golden State Warriors’ Jonathan Kuminga (00) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

On Tuesday night, the New York Knicks throttled the defending champion Golden State Warriors 132-94 on national television. The win upped their winning streak to eight games, but TNT’s panel on Inside the NBA was not impressed with the Knicks’ recent play.

Before the game started, Shaq poured cold water on the Knicks’ winning streak. 

“They won seven games. They’re the 6th seed. Whoopdie-freaking-do. Still a lot of the season left.”

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When Kenny Smith tried to interject, Shaq doubled down, saying, “I don’t think they can get out of one round of the playoffs.”

Now, it’s hard to fault Shaq for doubting the Knicks’ ability to win a playoff series. After all, the franchise hasn’t advanced to the second round of the playoffs since 2012-13 when they lost in the Eastern Conference Semi-finals to the Indiana Pacers. 

However, it’s also foolish of the Hall of Famer to fail to acknowledge what this team is doing.

Since 1993, the Knicks have only two winning streaks longer than their current eight-game streak. Both of the teams who orchestrated those streaks made the playoffs. If they beat the Toronto Raptors tonight, they would tie the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history. 

Yet, instead of talking about the clear growth the Knicks have displayed, Shaq spent minutes during the game praising the Warriors’ former second-overall pick James Wiseman, who had four points, three rebounds, and two blocks in 22 minutes and has career averages of 9.9 points and 5.1 rebounds in 54 games. 

However, the lack of belief in this Knicks team was shared by other members of the panel as well. 

Charles Barkley seemed like he was starting to defend the Knicks, stating that Julius Randle is a better finisher than he was in the playoffs two years ago and that Jalen Brunson was doing a fabulous job, but then said that he was with Shaq. 

“Whoopdie-do. They’re not even the best team in the same state. They’re not the best team in their own city.”

While Barkley is correct, it’s also not exactly the damning comment that he is making it out to be. 

New York’s recent upswing in performance has coincided with the changing of their rotation 14 games ago. Over that one-month span, the Brooklyn Nets are actually the best team in basketball, going 12-3. They have two of the most talented players in the NBA and currently have the 4th-best odds to win the NBA title.   

However, even though the Nets have been playing great basketball, the Knicks have been better in many respects. Over the last 14 games, the Knicks have a plus/minus of 8.3 and a net rating of 8.1, both of which are the best in the NBA. 

New York is also giving up just 107.1 points per game over that 14-game span, which is second-best in the NBA behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. They are also holding opponents to a 45.1% field goal percentage, which is third-best in the league. 

So while the team’s recent run of success may not have impressed Shaq and Barkley, it’s unquestionably a run that has showcased the Knicks as a legitimate playoff contender. Provided they can keep up this level of play.

That remains the biggest question: is this for real or a mirage?

The stats suggest this team can compete against anybody. Shaq and Barkley don’t seem to believe this version of the Knicks will show up in the postseason but why couldn’t it? What fun that might be. 

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For more Knicks coverage, visit amNY Sports

The Inside the NBA Panel doesn't believe in the Knicks
The Inside the NBA Panel (from left: Shaquille O’Neal, Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, and Charles Barkley) Wikimedia commons

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