With the national spotlight set to the shine on the Knicks this week, they appear to be catching fire at just the right time.
Perhaps it is a coincidence that the offense has performed well since Andrea Bargnani went down with a torn ligament in his left elbow last Wednesday – but the results tell us otherwise.
The smaller lineup seems to have a bit more offensive rhythm to it whenever Bargnani has been sitting on the bench or missed time due to injury this season, and Carmelo Anthony tends to play more comfortably without him on the floor.
Anthony exploded for a franchise-record 62 points this past Friday and followed it up by scoring 35 points on Sunday.
The Knicks didn’t exactly beat a pair of juggernauts over the weekend in the Charlotte Bobcats and Los Angeles Lakers, but with a couple more lightweights like the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers up next, the team has a chance to string together a four-game winning streak after previously losing their last five.
Boston and Cleveland have struggled mightily on the road, as the two teams are a combined 11-34 away from home this season.
The Knicks’ failures to win at Madison Square Garden, or beat teams who don’t have a winning record, plays a large role in why they currently find themselves 10 games below .500.
Playing the final three games of an eight-game homestand, the Knicks need to win two of their next three to at least avoid a losing record over that stretch.
These are the types of games the Knicks must win if they’re ever going to climb back to respectability.
The Celtics obliterated the Knicks 114-73 in their last visit to New York, although Boston has won just five of their last 24 games since then.
Point guard Rajon Rondo is expected to play for the Celtics Tuesday night as he continues to shake off the rust on an ACL injury that forced him to miss most of the first half of the season. Rondo hasn’t had much of an impact just yet but his presence is certainly needed as the Celtics are starved for offense.
The Cavaliers head to MSG on Thursday in the first of two consecutive nationally televised games for the Knicks.
In their only meeting of the season thus far, the Cavs defeated the Knicks in Cleveland by 15 points – just two days after the embarrassing loss to the Celtics.
Cleveland doesn’t hit their shots and they are a below-average team defensively. Even if Kyrie Irving does exploit the Knicks’ backcourt defensive issues and have a big game, there is no legitimate reason for losing to the Cavs at home.
The week wraps up with a game against the Miami Heat, handpicked by ESPN and the NBA.
ESPN generally doesn’t televise NBA games on Saturday night, so the Heat and Knicks are playing at an even rarer 8:30 p.m. starting time for a reason – Super Bowl weekend.
The stars are going to be out in full force at MSG and anyone who is anyone in the sports or entertainment world is going to want to be seen sitting courtside.
On the court, the Knicks actually own a win over Miami the last time the two teams met.
With Tyson Chandler out sick and J.R. Smith benched by coach Mike Woodson, and the Heat missing starters Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers, the Knicks got big games from Raymond Felton and Amar’e Stoudemire, in addition to 29 points and eight rebounds from Anthony, in the surprising win just a few weeks ago.
If the Knicks are going to pull off the upset once again, Anthony won’t be able to do it all by himself. The big numbers might get the job done against teams like the Bobcats, but he desperately needs help from an unlikely source or two against the league’s elite teams.