Since starting the season 6-0, the New York Knicks have been up and down. After winning in Detroit on Wednesday, the Knicks have settled into a 52-win pace which, given Miami's pace, would indeed give the Heat the 10-win advantage we foresaw before the season.
Now the Knicks are entering a crucial juncture in their season. After starting 2013 with a pedestrian 11-10 record, New York has bounced back to win five of six, though just one win in that stretch was against a playoff-bound team.
Now it gets tough. Carmelo Anthony is battling fluid buildup in his right knee, and the Knicks are facing a difficult seven-game stretch that begins Thursday against the powerhouse Oklahoma City Thunder, a team whose athleticism threatens to make the league's second-oldest team look like just that.
On Saturday, the Knicks have another home game against a Western playoff contender in the Utah Jazz.
After that, New York embarks on a five-game swing out West against four probable playoff teams (Golden State, Denver, L.A. Clippers, Utah) and the Portland Trail Blazers, who are 20-10 at the Rose Garden.
If things don't go well for them the next 12 days, the Knicks not only could fall out of contention for the No. 2 seed, but may find themselves in a five-team scrum with Brooklyn, Atlanta, Chicago and Boston for the No. 3 through No. 7 seeds. How can they avoid this and recover some of their early-season mojo in time for the playoffs?