The Knicks like to preach that the only game that matters is the next one, so it won't be hard to get them to focus on the task at hand — facing the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night in the quarterfinals of the In-Season Tournament.
While any sort of playoff win — in-season or postseason — is worth celebrating, the bigger picture remains the regular season for the Knicks, and as they embark on this experiment, counting wins and playoff positioning is the biggest thing. And the Knicks have managed to get to the In-Season Tournament with a 12-7 record through a grueling stretch of the schedule.
In these first 19 games, the Knicks have played five sets of back-to-back games and 10 road games. They managed to survive, mainly by taking care of the games they should win, compiling a 10-0 mark against teams with below- .500 records.
“We’re going to be ready to play no matter when it is, where it is,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Early start, late start. We’re probably the king of home back-to-backs too. I think we got it all covered.
“Who knows how this all unfolds with the In-Season Tournament. And then we got a pretty heavy schedule through January.”
Thibodeau paused for effect and mustered a smile as he added, “And then we have a heavy schedule through February. And March. Then April is special.”
It’s not surprising for Thibodeau to point out the difficulties the Knicks are facing, even while insisting his team won’t use it as an excuse. But with the In-Season Tournament creating a shifting schedule, the Knicks are facing another stretch that is challenging. They had only three of 12 games penciled in for December at home before the In-Season Tournament was figured in and already have added a road game in Milwaukee on Tuesday.
If the Knicks advance, they will head to Las Vegas for the next game. If they win that, they will move on to the In-Season Tournament championship game in Vegas. But a loss to the Bucks would mean either a trip to Boston if the Celtics lose to Indiana or a home game if the Pacers lose.
“Resilient,” Jalen Brunson said of the Knicks' mindset. “Got to keep fighting and keep getting better. It’s never going to be perfect, but it’s all about how we respond to situations, how can we respond quickly when things happen.”
“Yeah, the NBA season is a lot of games regardless,” Donte DiVincenzo said. “So they all kind of blend together. But I think we’ve had five [back-to-back sets] so far. It’s not going to get easier. Every team in the NBA is good. You don’t get a night off in the NBA anymore. So whether it’s back-to-back or a day in between, it doesn’t matter. We have to be ready to play regardless.”