After feasting on cupcakes for the past few games, the Knicks were served a piece of humble pie on Saturday night by the Miami Heat.
Few expected the Knicks to beat the Heat, the two-time defending NBA champions, but after picking up a handful of victories and looking as though they’ve turned their play around, they’ll need to beat a few legitimate opponents before they’re considered back on track.
Despite the low level of competition that their recent wins came against, the Knicks do deserve a little credit for beating some of the weaker teams on their schedule as that hasn’t been such an easy task for them this season.
With three more difficult games in the coming days, the Knicks run the risk of dropping back even further in the standings if they don’t pull off an upset or two.
Sandwiched between the Heat loss and a home game against one of the best teams in the NBA, the Portland Trail Blazers, the Knicks will head to Milwaukee on Monday night to take on the Bucks.
There’s no better cure for a loss than playing the Bucks. Owners of an 8-39 record, the Bucks are the worst team in the league. They’ve lost their last six games and have just one win in their last 16 games.
If the Knicks lose to Milwaukee, they shouldn’t be allowed entry back into New York.
The competition picks up again on Wednesday though when the Blazers come to town.
Portland is the highest scoring team in basketball and leads the league in rebounding – two areas where the Knicks struggle mightily.
Point guard Damian Lillard and power forward LaMarcus Aldridge are one of the best duos in the league, and the Knicks don’t match up well with them defensively at either position.
The Knicks have gotten little out of their point guards this season and they are painfully short on bodies in the frontcourt.
If Jeremy Tyler continues to see an increase in minutes, he will need to step up for the Knicks and give them the inside presence they sorely lack next to Tyson Chandler.
Following a day off after the Portland matchup, the Knicks return to action on Friday and play the Denver Nuggets.
The Nuggets find themselves just a game under .500, but that would be more than enough to claim a playoff spot if they played in the Eastern Conference.
Ty Lawson, the Nuggets’ leading scorer, is currently dealing with a shoulder injury, although he should be ready to go by Friday.
With tough assignments like Lillard and Lawson, Raymond Felton must step his game up and give the Knicks a better effort than they’ve gotten out of him for most of the year.
Former Knick Nate Robinson is now out for the season, as he underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL last week. Robinson saw extended minutes off the bench for the Nuggets, so his absence will certainly be felt.
Newark native Kenneth Faried has had somewhat of a disappointing season, but the Knicks still have to watch out for him on the boards.
The first Sunday without football of any kind at least gives us an old-fashioned shootout as Carmelo Anthony and company travel to Oklahoma City to take on a red-hot Kevin Durant and the Thunder.
Oklahoma City will be without Russell Westbrook as he recovers from surgery, but Durant has taken his game to another level of late with Westbrook out of the lineup.
Durant currently leads the NBA in scoring and is averaging a whopping 36 points per game over his last 10 games while shooting better than 60-percent from the field.
Not to be outdone, Anthony, who ranks second in scoring, is averaging a little over 30 points per game over his last 10 games.
The Knicks will need to get some defensive stops if they want to escape Oklahoma City with a win. If they allow Durant to heat up early, they could be in for a very long day.
Splitting these next four games for the Knicks is vital. With the All-Star Game approaching, time is running out for them to do anything more than barely sneak into the playoffs.