- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Mike Woodson has said again and again in recent days that his Knicks will be eyeing the Heat for the top spot in the Eastern Conference as they enter the second half.
It’s no surprise he’d say so. The goal in every sport is to win games and finish in first place.
But Woodson is asking a lot of his Knicks in this instance.
New York will enter the second half four games back of Miami with 32 to play. That’s not an easy deficit to overcome.
If Miami finishes the season playing .500 basketball (16-16), the Knicks would need to go at least 20-12 to catch up. That’s also assuming one of those 20 wins comes against the Heat, which would give the Knicks a 3-1 season series tiebreaker over LeBron’s crew. (The next tiebreaker is conference winning percentage.)
Here’s what Woodson had to say to MSG analyst Alan Hahn on “The Mike Woodson Show” Friday about his second-half outlook.
“Our goal is to win our division,” Woodson said. “The fact that we’re in a tight race with Miami for the best record in the East, you know, we might as well try to shoot for that was well.
“If we can have the best record in the East, and Miami’s playing great, everything’s gotta go through us when you start the playoffs. Our first and foremost goal is to win our division and host the first round.”
Clearly, Woodson has his priorities straight. Winning the Atlantic is a much more realistic pursuit than winning the Eastern Conference.
Another factor at play in the Knicks' quest for the top spot in the East is strength of schedule.
The combined winning percentage of the New York’s remaining opponents is 49.6 percent, higher than the 48.4 percent schedule it has played to date.
But the Heat will enjoy an easier schedule in the second half. The winning percentage of their remaining opponents is 47.5 percent, significantly less than the 50.7 percent schedule they've played to date.
So it's noble of Woodson to say his Knicks want to track down the Heat, but based on how things are set up, that goal doesn't seem very feasible.
Question: Do you think the Knicks can catch Miami for the top spot in the Eastern Conference?
Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
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17dKevin Pelton and Chad Ford