Just a week ago, the New York Knicks were mired in yet another slump; losers of five straight games. The fifth loss in that streak was at home against the dreadful Philadelphia 76ers, sending the Knicks to 12 games under .500. It was basically rock bottom.
But in that Sixers loss, Andrea Bargnani suffered a torn ligament in his elbow on a miserably failed dunk attempt, putting him on the shelf indefinitely. With all the other injuries in the frontcourt, Knicks head coach Mike Woodson was forced to turn to small ball, the strategy that helped New York win 54 games last season. And all of a sudden, it has looked like the 2012-13 season again.
Carmelo Anthony has flourished playing almost exclusively at the 4, averaging 40.3 points over the last three games. That of course includes his 62-point outburst in a win over the Charlotte Bobcats, which began the Knicks' current three-game winning streak and has them just a half-game behind those Bobcats for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
In the last three wins, the Knicks averaged 116.3 points, shot 52.3 percent overall and made 11.7 three-pointers per game. Again, those are numbers straight out of last season, and one has to wonder whether the Bargnani injury was a blessing in disguise.
Now, let's not be too quick to declare the Knicks out of the woods just yet. The last three victories have come against teams with a combined record of just 50-89. In addition, New York looked poised to break out at the beginning of January, only to regress during the five-game skid.
The schedule is also about to become more difficult. February features two games against the Miami Heat and contests against the Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors, among other quality opponents.
But perhaps this recent stretch has given the Knicks their swagger back. Despite the upcoming schedule and all the adversity they have faced already, the Knicks might still reach the playoffs. The Bobcats have been playing poorly as of late, so it would be no surprise to seem them continue to falter. The Detroit Pistons are currently tied with the Knicks in the standings, but they haven't looked the part of a playoff team pretty much all season.
A wild-card is the Cleveland Cavaliers, who continue to scuffle along in the wake of the Luol Deng trade. Some believed the acquisition of Deng would lead to a run at the postseason, but things haven't quite meshed yet. There's still time for Kyrie Irving and Co. to turn it around, however, the signs aren't encouraging.
Here are the full Eastern Conference standings:
|New York Knicks||45||18-27||.400|