Don’t look now, but the New York Knicks are winners of eight of their past 11 games, including five straight at home. They have surged up the standings to a 21-25 record, one-half game out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, and are already only two wins behind last season’s disgraceful total. But is their recent success a mirage?
If ever there was a test to determine whether Mike D’Antoni’s crew is legit, this week is it.
The Knicks start off Dream Week tonight with Kobe Bryant and the defending Western Conference champion Los Angeles Lakers coming to town. Wednesday night, LeBron James invades the Garden along with his intimidating Cleveland Cavaliers. And just to cap the week off with an exclamation point, Kevin Garnett and the champion Boston Celtics will bring their A-game and pent up New York hatred Friday night. Wow, what a tough week at home for the Knicks.
If ever there was a time that this Knick team was prepared to welcome this challenge, that time is now. The Knicks have been playing with a different look since the emergence of lottery pick Danilo Gallinari. His addition to the lineup has given them a deeper nine-man rotation that allows them to replenish tired legs with more capable scorers. They are 6-1 since Gallo returned from an ailing back issue, and the team is playing with utmost confidence and enhanced chemistry with all lineup variations.
But will Gallinari’s presence on the floor be enough to vault the Knicks into playoff contender status? If the Knicks cower and go 0-3 on this power homestand, surely the doubters will creep back out of the Garden shadows and claim that their recent success was merely false hope. But if the Knicks go 3-0, or even 2-1, versus the cream of the NBA’s crop, then it will be safe to say that Coach D’Antoni’s squad is here to stay, while cementing their future as legitimate playoff contenders.