The New York Knicks are division champions for the first time since the 1994 season. The Knickerbockers clinched their fist division title in nineteen years in style on Tuesday night by crushing the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden for their 13th straight victory and their 51st on the season. Carmelo Anthony scored more than 35 points for the fifth straight game and is in prime position to win the scoring title ahead of Kevin Durant. Anthony would be the first Knick to secure the title since Bernard King in 1985, and only the second Knick ever to accomplish the feat.
The Knicks are getting hot just at the right time as we approach playoff time. With Miami secure at the top of the conference, the second seed and home-court advantage in the first two rounds of the playoffs are up for grabs. New York finds itself in control of their playoff positioning and can clinch the second seed with either two wins, a win and a Pacers loss or two Pacers losses. Barring the unlikely, the Knicks will indeed be the second seed and will have some leeway in deciding whether to rest players. Some decisions are more obvious. Players like Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby are older players who are banged up. Other decisions are not as clear. For example, Mike Woodson needs to decide what to do with Carmelo Anthony as he chases his scoring title. Players like Chris Copeland and Iman Shumpert should see increased playing time as they tune up for the playoff run and eat up minutes from some of the older players.
The team’s first round opponent is still in question but all signs point to that team being the Boston Celtics. This should be a tough first round draw as the Celtics are just getting healthy with the returns of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The two teams always play hard fought games and the series should be one to watch. This is the type of series that will feature superstars and tension as Carmelo Anthony and Paul Pierce renew their rivalry and Tyson Chandler and Kevin Garnett battle down low. However much Knicks fans want a playoff series victory, this series will certainly not be a walk in the park.
As we analyze the Knicks’ regular season, we have to see it as a positive one in which many goals were accomplished, including a division victory ahead of the traditional powerhouse Celtics and the upstart Brooklyn Nets as well as a high playoff seeding. However, the Knicks’ leadership must not become complicit as a championship is in reach. With veterans leading the team, complicity should not be an option and player sentiment since yesterday has been to the contrary, tilted towards ambition and determination. The Knicks take on the Chicago Bulls in the Windy City tomorrow night with a chance to keep up their historic winning streak.