- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Based solely on strength of schedule, the Knicks have had it pretty easy so far.
Their opponents have a combined winning percentage of 48.4, which is the fourth-worst percentage in the league.
That's about to change.
In the second half, the Knicks have a murderers' row of nine back-to-backs in their final 32 games. One out of every four of their final games is against a team currently in the top four of their conference. They have two more against the rival Celtics and Heat and a combined five games against Denver, Golden State and Utah -- three Western Conference playoff teams.
Someone asked Tyson Chandler about the second half of the season this week. Before the question was finished, the Knicks center just smiled and said, "It's tough. It's just tough."
It certainly is.
Here is a brief breakdown:
OLD FOES GET A NEW LOOK: Somehow, Indiana is 11 games over .500 despite playing the first half without Danny Granger. The Pacers hope to get Granger back after the break, possibly as soon as Wednesday's game against the Knicks.
The Knicks face Indiana twice in the second half. They could be battling the Pacers for playoff seeding (Indy is 1½ games behind New York in the conference).
New York's final game against Indiana is on April 14. Just three days earlier, the Knicks will play their fourth and final game against Chicago, possibly this time with Derrick Rose in uniform. The Knicks are 0-3 against the Bulls.
LEAST OF THE EAST: The Knicks will get a bit of a breather in the second half with three games against Toronto, two against Charlotte and two against Cleveland. They've already lost once to Toronto, though, so that's no gimme. They also needed a last-second shot from J.R. Smith to beat the Bobcats.
RIVALRY WEEK: The Knicks' biggest tests in the East will come in the form of two games apiece against Boston and Miami.
They face the Celts at home on March 31 in Kevin Garnett's first MSG visit since his postgame dustup with Carmelo Anthony. Two days later, the Knicks are in Miami for their regular-season finale against LeBron James and the Heat.
BEST OF THE WEST: The Knicks don't have to face the Spurs or Mavs after the break, but it seems like they have to face the rest of the top teams in the conference an awful lot.
Their biggest remaining road trip is against some of the premier teams in the West. From March 11-18, they play five games against Golden State, Denver, Portland, the Clippers and Utah. The five teams are a combined 45 games over .500.
That trip doesn't even include the two games New York has against the defending Western Conference champ Thunder (March 7, April 7) and their rematch against the Grizzlies at Madison Square Garden on March 27. Yikes.
Much has been made of the Knicks being on track for 52 wins, which would be their highest total since 1996-97, but it won't be easy getting there.
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3dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann