When the Knicks take the court for their customary Martin Luther King matinee at the Garden on Monday, they will be facing more than just the Pistons. They'll be facing themselves, their upcoming schedule and the lingering stench of the past as they reach the halfway point in the season.
The lingering stench was hard to miss this weekend as the Knicks lost a pair of games to the Raptors and Pistons. The Knicks fell right into their pattern from the first 10 games by falling way behind in the first three quarters and trying to mount a comeback in the final minutes. The cohesion and flow of their recent wins was nowhere to be found and now they've lost four of the last five games and fallen back in their playoff push.
That segues nicely into why that bad start is still lingering. Assuming they win Monday, they'll be 17-24 entering the final 41 games of the season. If we set 36 wins as the barrier, that leaves 19 wins for the Knicks to pick up against a schedule that is loaded with tough games. Two trips to Cleveland, a five-game road swing featuring games at San Antonio, Dallas and Boston and another five-game trip to the west coast. There's another trip to Boston, a game in Orlando and, well, you get the point.
The schedule gets rough right away, in fact, with games against the Lakers and Mavericks this weekend. A loss to the Pistons Monday opens the door to a five-game losing streak and, suddenly, the playoffs will seem as far away as they did at the start of the season.
Beating the Pistons may not wind up changing that, but the Knicks need to get right and they need to get right quickly.