The secret is out on the New York Knicks.
They are the hottest team in the NBA, only losing two games since the calendar flipped to 2024. The acquisition of OG Anunoby has transformed the team in ways the Knicks’ faithful could have only imagined. Despite dealing with injuries to Julius Randle and having Mitchell Robinson out for the season, Tom Thibodeau’s squad has persevered and cemented itself as a top-three team in the Eastern Conference.
While it is all seemingly sunshine and rainbows at MSG, the Knicks should not lose sight of the bigger picture at hand: Getting the job done in the postseason. There are a couple of glaring trends that need to be addressed before the question can be answered, are the Knicks contenders or pretenders?
New York has done a spectacular job of feasting on inferior opponents this year. The Knicks are in the bottom third in the league in terms of strength of schedule, and with that hold a 22-1 record with teams who are below .500. The one loss against a sub .500 team is the best mark in the association. This is certainly a sign of the Knicks’ maturity and taking a step in the right direction as a whole. However, there will only be teams with a record over .500 in the playoffs, who the Knicks are 9-16 against.
The Knicks have the 12th most difficult remaining schedule, meaning they will have more big tests to meet before the postseason rolls around. This includes two more matchups with the Boston Celtics, whom they have already lost to twice this year, and three games against the Philadelphia 76ers, who they beat-handedly after first acquiring Anunoby. Additionally, New York has games against the Denver Nuggets, Milwaukee Bucks, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Cleveland Cavaliers, who they are a combined 3-5 against this year.
Recently, New York has shown their defensive prowess is going to be the key to success against the best of the best. When they welcomed the Nuggets to MSG, New York suffocated Denver from three, holding them to less than 20% from beyond the arc in the blowout victory. They even held the 76ers to 92 points in their first meeting of the year.
Another trend to keep an eye on is how the Knicks perform away from home. New York has only five losses at the Garden this season but is only two games over .500 on the road. If this team has true aspirations of wanting to be title contenders come the postseason, they will need to travel better.
Luckily for the Knicks, their tough stretch of schedule does not start until after the All-Star break, so they will have time to get healthy until then. In that stretch, they will face Philadelphia, Boston, New Orleans, and Golden State all in a week.
The reality of the situation is we will not know what this Knicks team is truly made of until the postseason. Until then, New York will have to continue to remain tough and stack wins like they have been against inferior opponents. They will have plenty of opportunities to fine-tune their skills for the postseason against playoff opponents too. Playoff basketball is a different beast, and the Knicks must be up for the test.