Can the Knicks finish the season as the East’s 2-seed?

NBA: New York Knicks at San Antonio Spurs
Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

With just nine games left in the regular season, the New York Knicks are within striking distance of claiming the Eastern Conference’s second seed. At 44-29, they are currently fourth, but only half-a-game behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for third and two games behind the Milwaukee Bucks for second.

New York had a chance to be within just one game of the second seed Friday night, but lost in overtime to the San Antonio Spurs despite Jalen Brunson’s career-high 61 points, a crushing loss to a rebuilding Spurs team as the Knicks failed to capitalize on a big opportunity to shift the standings.

The Knicks have a tough draw to close out the season

So now, their margin for error to be the second seed is slimmer. Their next matchup is against the Oklahoma City Thunder, who is tied for first in the Western Conference with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Five of their nine remaining games are against teams with winning records, including one more against the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics.

They also only have four home games left, and while they are very solid on the road, they are 24-13 at home this season, the seventh-best mark in the NBA. Without the home court advantage, the climb to reach the second seed will be tough, as it will likely require them to get at least 50 wins, something they haven’t done since the 2012-13 season.

Looking at the teams in front of them, the Knicks have the toughest path to close out the season. These are the remaining strength of schedules by opponent winning percentage for the top four teams in the East, according to Tankathon:

  • New York Knicks – fourth toughest schedule remaining
  • Milwaukee Bucks – 15th toughest schedule remaining
  • Cleveland Cavaliers – 17th toughest schedule remaining
  • Boston Celtics – 27th toughest schedule remaining

It is highly unlikely that anybody surpasses Boston for the top seed, but the race for the second seed could come down to the last game of the season. The loss to San Antonio was killer, as they won’t have such a favorable matchup the rest of the way.

The Knicks still need to get healthy

Another thing getting in the Knicks’ way is health. There is still no word on when they will get Julius Randle and OG Anunoby back on the court, and while Brunson has been able to keep the Knicks in a good spot, they need to return to full strength in time for the playoffs if they wish to go on a deep run.

As the season winds down, the three-team battle for the East’s second seed is expected to become hectic. Every single game for each team could have significant ramifications on the final standings.

Follow this writer on X: @DylanBacker_

Mentioned in this article:

More about: