The New York Knicks, who play at Houston on Sunday, are on the verge of something memorable, an accomplishment their diehard fans have waited eight long years to experience at Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks claimed their 10th win in 11 games Wednesday by defeating the Chicago Bulls 113-94. The victory represented a rebound from the end of their nine-game winning streak and inched the Knicks closer to securing their first playoff berth since the 2012-13 season.
The Knicks (35-28) will open their final trip of the season on Sunday against the Rockets. They will do so positioned in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with just nine games remaining in the regular season.
After missing out on the playoffs in each of the previous seven seasons, qualifying for the playoffs would mark a seismic shift for a franchise with a revered history, but one that has labored recently to cobble together anything positive.
But with seemingly the right pieces finally in place, the Knicks are within range of achieving their primary goal entering this season. The playoffs would mark the start of a burgeoning collective.
“I’m excited for what this team can be,” Knicks All-Star forward Julius Randle said. “Our growth, how much we can improve. We’ve just got to lock in and keep doing it.”
The upcoming road trip could serve as one final measuring stick for the Knicks.
After playing the Rockets (16-48), the Knicks will face five consecutive Western Conference playoff contenders, including four title favorites in the Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers.
Given the strides the Knicks have made this season, the temptation is to look ahead at what’s to come after the Rockets serve as the first obstacle.
But looking ahead would be a departure from what the Knicks have done to get this far.
“For us, and we talked about it after the game, nothing changes,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “When you begin the season, you think about all the things you have to prepare yourself for, and so you don’t want to look ahead, you don’t want to look behind. The only thing we’re thinking about is Houston.
“You take it step by step and get yourself ready to play, and when the ball goes up, we’ve got to find a way to win, and it’s really that simple. So don’t get lost in looking at it’s the end of the season, how many games are left, or however long the road trip is. For us it’s just … let’s be ready for Houston when the ball goes up.”
The Rockets, losers of 11 of their past 13, fell 113-87 to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday in the first game of a back-to-back, with the Knicks arriving fresh off a three-day break.
Rockets coach Stephen Silas spent several moments after the setback speaking with Warriors guard Stephen Curry, who scored 23 of his game-high 30 points in the third quarter to pace the win. Silas was a Warriors assistant when Curry was a rookie in 2009-10.
“He was saying how happy he is for me and he’s looking forward to seeing the turnaround when it happens here in Houston under my leadership,” Silas said. “We went through times back when we were going through this point his rookie year.”
–Field Level Media