- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW YORK -- For at least the next day, the New York Knicks own the eighth spot all to themselves.
The Knicks’ 110-81 blowout win over the Brooklyn Nets combined with Atlanta’s loss to Chicago has Mike Woodson’s team in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference by a slim .002 margin in winning percentage.
“It’s funny how things work, that we are in this situation right now having a chance to make the playoffs,” Carmelo Anthony said. “We control our own destiny. I am going to keep on saying that. We can’t worry about what Atlanta is doing or what anybody else is doing. We got to win basketball games.
“If we continue playing the way we’ve been playing, we’ll be there at the end of the season."
Melo is technically wrong about the whole destiny thing but he’s right from the perspective that if the Knicks keep playing the way they did against the Nets, they will make the playoffs in my opinion.
The Knicks (33-43) might be in the eighth spot right now but they aren’t quite in the driver’s seat yet. Atlanta (32-42) currently owns the tiebreaker over the Knicks with a better conference record of 22-22. The Hawks have eight games remaining, all against Eastern Conference foes.
The Knicks are 22-24 in the conference with six games remaining. They finish the season against Washington, at Miami, at Toronto, Chicago, at Brooklyn and Toronto. No other team in the league is facing a team with a winning record in each of its remaining games.
Meanwhile, just three of Atlanta’s remaining games are against teams currently above .500. They play Cleveland, at Indiana, Detroit, Boston, at Brooklyn, Miami, Charlotte and at Milwaukee.
The Knicks have to finish one game better than the Hawks in the standings due to the tiebreaker. But considering how both teams have been playing, Melo’s control-our-own-destiny comment makes sense.
If the Knicks keep playing like this and the Hawks keep playing the way they have, New York does control its own destiny by winning as many games as it can. Atlanta has lost seven of its past eight and it’s hard seeing the Hawks not dropping more games.
The Knicks have won 12 of their past 15 and are playing their best basketball when they need to most. Against the Nets, they came out with exactly the type of urgency, energy and motivation that they need to make the playoffs.
Keep this up and they won’t be denied the playoffs. With no first-round draft pick of their own, the Knicks only have one thing to play for -- the playoffs.
“Everybody would say the schedule is not in our favor,” Anthony said. “There’s nothing we can do about that. We got to go play.”
“Our backs are against the wall right now,” Anthony continued. “We control our own destiny. Sometimes we’ve been real inconsistent as far as coming out with energy and playing. Tonight was a total opposite. Everybody came out focused, locked in and we didn’t look back since the tipoff.”
Anthony was his usual steady self with 23 points and 10 rebounds. But his supporting cast was tremendous.
J.R. Smith played like the explosive sixth man of the year that he was last season, burying six 3-point bombs and scoring 24 points to go with eight rebounds and six assists.
If Carmelo keeps getting this kind of help, the Knicks might not just make the playoffs but they could give whomever they face in the playoffs a little more trouble than expected. I'm not saying they can win a series against Indiana or Miami. But do you think the Pacers or Heat rather face the Knicks and an explosive scorer like Melo or an inexperienced team like Atlanta?
An elite scorer like Melo can go off and potentially win one playoff game on his own. Indiana or Miami would certainly want to finish their first-round series as fast as possible.
Tyson Chandler has repeatedly said that he believes the Knicks not only will make the playoffs but that nobody wants to face them if they get in.
“Without a doubt,” Smith said. “Especially on the defensive end, making plays, moving the ball, making shots, we definitely feel that way.”
And that is why Melo believes the Knicks control their own destiny. If they keep playing this way, they have a great chance of getting in no matter if the odds are stacked against them.
“It’s all on us at this point,” Anthony said. “It’s just, we know what we want. ... We should’ve figured this out earlier in the season, but it is what it is right now. We want to get to the postseason.”
And they are playing like they won't be denied.
11dKevin Pelton and Chad Ford