Rajon Rondo’s unfortunate ACL tear makes it all but inevitable that a New York team will win the Atlantic division. The Nets haven’t seen a division title since 2006 and for the Knicks the drought goes back to 1994. A division can’t be won or lost in late January, but when we get to the playoffs we can look at these 2 upcoming weeks to tell us which team put themselves in the best position to win the Atlantic.
With 8 games remaining until the NBA All-Star break, New York is in a position to take a commanding lead. Remaining, are home games against Orlando, Milwaukee, Sacramento, Detroit, and Toronto. Those should be won by an average of 10 points per game. New York also has road games against Washington and a Kevin Love-less Minnesota. A home game against the Clippers will certainly be a tough test, but New York, worst case scenario should go at least 5-3, or more likely 6-2. A few calls and balls bounce their way and they could go 7-1 or even 8-0 before the February 17th All-Star game.
Brooklyn on the other hand will face some stiff challenges before the festivities begin in Houston. Home games against the Heat, Bulls, Lakers, Spurs, and Nuggets, including a tough game at the Pacers could mean as many as 6 losses for Brooklyn. The Nets were blown out twice on the road last weekend, and you just don’t know how well they will perform game to game.
As for the Knicks, you know Mike Woodson is telling his team not to play down to the level of the competition and handle their business. If so, they could use some of these upcoming games to rest Tyson Chandler who is experiencing neck pain and Jason Kidd who is having back issues. They could also get Raymond Felton back into his groove, bring Iman Shumpert further along in his recovery, furthermore, there are reports that Rasheed Wallace will return to practice before the break. New York currently has a 1.5 game lead in the Atlantic, and their lead could get up to 6 games if things go their way. However, if New York’s effort is not there, the defense is inconsistent, and Brooklyn handles their business, the results could be the difference of 3 games or less going into the break. The schedule will flip and be in Brooklyn’s favor, these next 2 weeks are very important for the Knicks, lets see if they’re up to the challenge.