Two Nights, Two Big Tests for Knicks

Road games against the Spurs and Grizzlies will put hot start to test

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    One loss won't mean a end to the fun.

    Carmelo Anthony doesn't want to hear anyone making less of the Knicks' 5-0 start because of the quality of the teams that they've beaten. 

    "Who does the schedule? The computers?" Anthony said. "You can't blame us. We're playing the teams that are on our schedule. The Brooklyn game was postponed. The Philadelphia back-to-back was tough. Going down to Orlando and getting a win was tough. We don't control the schedule."

    They don't control the schedule, which originally had them facing the Nets and Heat on consecutive nights as it happens, but that won't stop people from building their next two games up to mean more than the first five. The Knicks will be in San Antonio on Thursday night and in Memphis on Friday night for a couple of games against two of the Western Conference's leading lights. 

    As silly as it would be to think that the first five games represented the true measure of what the Knicks will be this season, it would be equally silly to call anything a mirage because the Knicks get blown out on one or both of the next two nights. The Spurs and Grizzlies are really good teams playing at home and the best teams in the league will lose games under those circumstances. 

    The games will be more useful as a barometer of how the Knicks' rotation handles teams that offer fewer mismatches than the Sixers, Mavericks or Magic. With combinations of Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw/Tiago Splitter/DeJuan Blair in San Antonio and Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol in Memphis, the Knicks probably aren't going to be able to go as small as they have for long stretches so far this season. 

    That should mean a shift in the way Mike Woodson doles out minutes, with particular attention paid to the backup forwards. Rasheed Wallace is a quote machine and useful player, but he might have been stretched too far in Orlando while Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas were used sparingly or not at all. 

    Woodson might have been looking ahead to this run of three games in four nights when doling out time in the last couple of games or he could just be experimenting to see which players mesh most effectively. On top of that, it will be informative to see how the Knicks defense can do as well against a pair of experienced teams without missing parts as they have against the Mavericks and Magic in their last two outings.

    All interesting questions to ponder regardless of the final score and the answers to them will have a lot more bearing on where things go from here than the results of the games. Something worth keeping in mind should the inevitable first loss of the season come in the next couple of nights. 

    Another thing to keep in mind, win or lose: The Knicks will play 76 more of these things no matter what. 

    Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.