NBA Atlantic: Knicks closing in on division title and second seed

The New York Knicks have led the Atlantic division for the entire season and have a firm grasp on first place with just 8 games to be played in the regular season. The Knicks are five games in front of the second place Brooklyn Nets and have now switched their attention to the Indiana Pacers.

New York is currently just a half game in front of the Pacers for the second spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Knicks would like to secure the second spot and most likely face the Boston Celtics to start the playoffs. Atlantic division rivals Boston have not played well down the stretch and are 3-7 in their last ten games played.

The Knicks won on Wednesday night to extend their current consecutive game winning streak to 10, with a 95-82 win over Atlanta. Leading the way, as he has for the entire season, was Carmelo Anthony with 40 points. On Tuesday night, Anthony scored 50 points against the Miami Heat.

The question in the minds of many Knicks’ fans is can Anthony shoulder the load throughout the playoffs when offense often takes a back seat to defense. Anthony has scored well inside near the hoop the entire season, but those baskets will not come as easy in the postseason. Opposing defenses will clamp down on shots close to the hoop.

Anthony had to have his knee drained in the early part of March and sat out six games over an eight game stretch. The procedure seems to have worked as Anthony is averaging 31 points per game in the nine games since having the knee drained. However, once again the question arises, can Anthony’s knee hold up during the wear and tear of multiple seven game series, where rest is not an option.

Often times, players go on scoring streaks when their team is out of the playoff picture or during a stretch of games when the rest of the team is struggling. With Anthony that is far from the case, the Knicks’ forward has played his best basketball over the last 10 games and those are the ten consecutive games the team has won.

The Knicks are only two games away from reaching the 50-win plateau for the first time since the 1999-2000 season, which was the last time the Knicks won a series in the postseason.

To win at least one series, the Knicks will need the league’s second high scorer at 28.1 points per game to continue his incredible play.

If the season ends the way it is now, the Knicks play Boston and the Celtics defense has been somewhat porous to say the least down the stretch. Boston has allowed opponents to score an average of 101.6 points per game over the past 10 games played. That will work in Anthony’s favor if the two teams meet. The other possibility is Chicago and everyone knows how tough of a defense the Bulls play.

For now however, Anthony is focusing on the Pacers and securing second place in the conference.

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