The New York Knicks are headed into arguably the most important string of games of their entire season as they look to hold onto the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference. Currently, the Knicks are 1.5 games ahead of the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics, giving them a nice little cushion to work with.
Luckily, the Knicks are preparing to take on the Houston Rockets, who are arguably the worst team in the NBA but have been playing better as of late, winning their last game against the Milwaukee Bucks in a shoot-out. Kevin Porter Jr. posted 50 points, while Christian Wood earned 30 and Kelly Olynyk 24.
However, New York has the best defense in the NBA, allowing just 104.7 points per game, so the Rockets will have a difficult match-up on Sunday evening. In addition, they will be coming off a contest against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday evening, so fatigue will undoubtedly be playing a factor.
Despite the record, the Knicks are 100% focused on the task ahead and treating every game like a playoff-caliber exhibition. If you treat every game the same way, with high intensity and aggression, the playoffs will seem like a breeze.
“We love big games. Who doesn’t want to play against the best of the best?” Barrett said Saturday after practice. “It’s kind of what I grew up wanting to do. It’s going to be a great challenge for us. Just excited to get going.”
After the Rockets, the Knicks take one step closer toward a four-game streak on the West Coast, taking on the Phoenix Suns, LA Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, and San Antonio Spurs. That difficult string of opponents will prove to be the Knicks’ biggest challenge yet, and walking away with a few victories would give them tremendous confidence with the regular season nearing its end.
“What we’re doing is just thinking about Houston, and that’s really what we’ve done well all season long,” Thibodeau said. “We’ve had different stretches of the season where you have a bunch of games like [this]. I think the important thing is to have a routine of how you prepare for each game, and don’t get away from it.”
The Knicks rally around Julius Randle:
The Knicks might be the hottest team in the NBA right now, winning 10 of their last 11 games, with their only loss coming against the Phoenix Suns when Julius Randle struggled to get going, posting just 18 points. He rebounded against the Bulls with 34 points, showing that his small blip was nothing but an anomaly.
The reality for this passionate Knicks team is that when Julius Randle is playing well, everybody rallies around him and rises to the occasion. He is their esteemed leader, and as long as he remains consistent, they will be in good shape.