You’ve heard of must-win games before, but the New York Knicks are entering a must-win week. They have three games this week against three opponents who each have a worse record than the Knicks. How often has that happened this year?
The answer to that question is zero.
The Knicks tip-off tonight against the 15-47 Philadelphia 76ers who have lost 16 games in a row. A loss here would be a huge surprise, despite the Knicks’ ability to continually surprise all season long with how bad they’re capable of playing.
They’ve split their two games on the season and will play twice over the next two weeks. But the 76ers, who are tanking for a top draft pick, are giving away wins at this point in the season. And the game is at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks have to extend their current winning streak to four tonight.
On Wednesday, the Knicks will take on the 22-41 Boston Celtics on the road. The Celtics are 3-7 in their last ten games. The Knicks have dropped two out of three to their lottery-bound Atlantic division foe this season.
On Saturday, the Knicks travel back home to play the Milwaukee Bucks who have the worst record in the NBA at 12-50. The Knicks have given the Bucks one of their 12 wins on the season on Feb. 3, so a victory is all but set in stone here. But like the 76ers, the Bucks are giving away victories in an effort to solidify the best chance of getting the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft.
The Knicks are 24-40 and 3.5 games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They have won three games in a row to close the gap, but they need to extend that number to six if they’re to have a realistic chance of making the playoffs.
A look ahead in the Knicks schedule may lead to a bit of optimism as well for Knicks fans. After this week, the Knicks play the East-leading Indiana Pacers before embarking on a four-game stretch against opponents with worse records: the 76ers, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings.
If the Knicks win all seven of these “must-win” games, they could easily move ahead of the Hawks. But as we’ve seen all season long, the Knicks are more likely to find a way to not win these games than they are to come together when it’s needed most.