As far as big games go for the Knicks, they don’t get much larger than tonight’s tilt in Milwaukee against the Bucks. Fresh off last night’s loss in Chicago, New York (29-28) maintains a perilous grasp on the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot, their lead over those same Bucks down to just one game in the standings. This, despite the club having won 11 out of their last 15 contests, and keeping themselves afloat without the services of Amar’e Stoudemire (back) and Jeremy Lin (knee).
If it seemed like just a few hours ago that we were discussing how the Knicks could conceivably still win the Atlantic Division – foolishly, many of us were – then the talk now has predictably turned to the possibility that New York doesn’t qualify for the postseason altogether.
My, what a difference splitting a back-to-back set can make, huh?
Prior to yesterday’s loss, over at the New York Times’ Off the Dribble Blog, the great Mike Kurylo got his abacus out, ran 10,000 simulations, and concluded that the Knicks then had an 18.1% chance of winning the division if they were to beat the division-leading Boston Celtics on April 17th at Madison Square Garden. Conversely, Mike determined that those odds would fall to just 2.7% if the Celtics were to win that game.
I’m not smart enough to know what those odds look like now, but I am fairly certain that a loss tonight would be extremely detrimental to the Knicks’ postseason-path. As we so joyfully discussed back on March 23rd, New York is now midway through a hellish scheduling gauntlet – which, admittedly, eases over the team’s final five games – while Milwaukee continues to enjoy the second-easiest stretch-run in the Eastern Conference.
In other words, the Knicks still control their own destiny, and they might even have an opportunity to recover should they stumble over the next four games, but it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to suggest that tonight represents a season-defining moment.
At least until Sunday’s much-anticipated battle-royale versus the dreaded Miami Heat, that is.
Per Frank Isola, Amar’e will step right back into his starting power forward position once the doctors have cleared him to play. The presumption is that absent any setbacks, Stoudemire – who participated in Tuesday’s shoot around, running, jumping and dunking to his heart’s content – will suit up this Friday at home against the Wizards.
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Associated Press Photo