The New York Knicks currently have sole possession of the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference, overcoming the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday evening to take a .5 game lead. They are also one game ahead of the Boston Celtics, and with their latest eight-game win streak propelling them into a guaranteed playoff spot, the Knicks will be holding on for dear life as the next 12 regular season games unfold.
The rise to success for the Knicks hasnâ€™t been a mystery, it is a combination of mentality, hard work, and fantastic coaching from head coach Tom Thibodeau. The entire approach and methodology of this coaching staff have turned this Knicks team around in just one season, playing unbelievable defense and matching offensive performances the past few weeks, despite having an average unit in that category. They are currently allowing a league-best 104.7 points per game and are scoring just 106.7, which ranks 26th in the NBA.
Once the Knicks reach the playoffs, they are going to need to step up offensively, but if anything has become apparent over the last eight games, it’s that their three-point shooting has improved dramatically.
For example, the team hit 54.3% of their three-point shots against the Hawks, totaling 19-of-35. That bested their opponent by nearly 20%, which has been the case for the last few weeks, especially with second-year shooting guard RJ Barrett improving significantly in the category.
However, it has been Julius Randle that has completely overhauled the team, scoring 40 points against Atlanta and connecting on 6-of-8 from downtown, including a big one in overtime.
Nonetheless, some analysts donâ€™t believe the Knicks are fully back yet, as Shaquille Oâ€™Neal had a few words on the matter.
The “Inside the NBA” crew, composed of Shaq, Candace Parker, Dwayne Wade, and Adam Lefkoe, discussed the Knicks’ rise to success and the Eastern Conference standings. Shaq clearly needs to see more from the Knicks to claim “they’re back,” but they are well on their way to proving that to the former NBA star.
â€œIf they get home-court advantage in the first round, Iâ€™ll say the Knicks are back,â€ Oâ€™Neal said also indicating that Julius Randle must be â€œballinâ€™.â€
â€œCandace is over there making faces. They were terrible last year,â€ Oâ€™Neal said, with Parker responding: â€œWhy do they have to be fourth, why canâ€™t you just say it? â€¦ Theyâ€™ve been terrible, you have to give them some props.â€
Oâ€™Neal said, â€œTheyâ€™re good, but theyâ€™re not back?â€ and Parker laughed asked, â€œWhatâ€™s the definition of â€˜backâ€™?â€
Oâ€™Neal stated, â€œYou donâ€™t get the â€˜backâ€™ title until you get the first round in the playoffs â€¦ Youâ€™re supposed to be 5th, 6th, 7th or 8th [seed] with their talent, but to impress me, you have to get home-court advantage.â€
It is hard to disagree with Shaq, as the Knicks need to prove they can hold the 4th seed and claim home-field advantage in the playoffs. That would prove their consistency and ability to fend off good teams. Ultimately, the playoffs are a different beast, but the Knicks seem to have what it takes to battle harmoniously late in games.