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Death, taxes, and playoff basketball in New York City

Per @nyknicks on Instagram

This past Sunday, the New York Knicks captured the #2 seed in the East for the first time in 12 seasons in front of a raucous crowd at Madison Square Garden. Around the city, the hype is real as New York gears up for what should be a deep playoff run.

This time, it feels different

The vibes in NYC are immaculate heading into Game 1 of the Knicks' first round clash with the Philadelphia 76ers this Saturday at the Garden. The Knicks, for the first time since the 2012-2013 season, reached the 50 win mark and captured the 2-seed in the Eastern Conference. This all but qualifies them for home court advantage up until the Eastern Conference Finals.

The team is playing high-level basketball, with head coach Tom Thibodeau getting the most out of his guys down the stretch. The Knicks went 8-2 in April to eventually help them snatch the 2-seed from the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers. They earned their spot in the playoffs with help from a supporting cast of players that give it their all on both ends of the court.

Jalen Brunson, of course, makes this team go, and he is the key reason to the success they have garnered over the past two seasons. He is an elite shooter that is able to create space in a way that puts him in a position to score with ease. I haven't seen anyone create space with that type of footwork since prime Steph Curry in the Warriors' mid-2010s tear through the league.

Compared to seasons past, this one feels different. It feels like the Knicks have a chip on their shoulder, like they have something to prove. The media doubted them the entire season because, well, recency bias exists and people always expect the worst possible outcome. Those Knicks of old that for the last 20 years were the laughing stock of the league are gone. The Knicks of now are true contenders with a chance to make a deep run this postseason.

Not only that, but the roster is riddled with youth. Jalen Brunson is only 27 years old and is stepping into his prime, and other than role players Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks, not a single player is over the age of 30. The Knicks are bathing in the fountain of youth. They are building a force to be reckoned with in the NBA and it's only up from here for Leon Rose and the management team.

What should Knicks fans expect during the playoffs?

A whole lot of point scoring and massive minutes from the starting five. By now, we're accustomed to Tom Thibodeau's player usage. If a guy can go, he will go for the entire game and then some. That doesn't phase this version of the Knicks as it seems they play better when their minutes are high. Guys like Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart play entire games regularly. Donte DiVincenzo just played 81 games for the first time in his career.

We should expect the same in the playoffs, and believe me, Thibs will make sure his guys are on the court as much as possible. Not a single one of the guys below are averaging less than 25 minutes per game. They're all healthy too, so expect Thibs to lean heavily on the starters throughout the playoffs.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference

The Knicks' starting five will be the defining factor in how they show up against the Sixers. They do not matchup particularly well with Joel Embiid who was on track to win an MVP award before getting hurt this season. But if the Knicks double Embiid and play drop coverage against him forcing him to shoot from the outside, then they will be able to contain the beast. He may still be hurting from that lingering knee injury that cost him 29 games in the regular season so the Knicks need to do their best to keep him out of the paint.

The likes of Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, Kelly Oubre, and more are stingy in their own right and will need to be kept in check throughout the duration of the series. The Sixers are a good team and this one will almost certainly go 6 or 7 games. The Knicks' starting five need to come out fast and hungry each night to avoid any semblance of an upset. Jalen Brunson needs to keep doing what he did this entire season and show up in a big way to lead this team on a long playoff run.

Final Thoughts

The Knicks are the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference for good reason, they earned their way here through a hard fought 2023-2024 season. Even while sustaining long-term injuries to Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson, and OG Anunoby, they still managed to stay afloat in a tough Eastern Conference. Now that they are back fully healthy, minus Julius Randle of course, they are on track to be one of the tougher outs in the playoffs this year. Nobody should want to come to Madison Square Garden as it will almost certainly be one of the tougher environments to play in during the playoffs.

It all starts with the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday evening. This Knicks team is different than the one we saw in last year's playoffs and they are back to accomplish more. I don't want to get too ahead of myself here, but an Eastern conference Finals appearance does not feel at all out of the question for this squad. They are on the come up as one of the more young and hungry teams in the league and will be a mainstay atop the Eastern Conference for the foreseeable future.


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