Halfway through the 2020-21 season, the Knicks have become one of the biggest storylines in the NBA.
Led by Tom Thibodeau’s intensity on the bench and Julius Randle’s All-Star-level play on the court, the Knicks stand at 19-18 at the break, the first time they’ve been above .500 at this point in the season since Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks to the playoffs in 2012-13.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is the second half of the season is going to get much tougher on this group of Knicks.
Neil Paine of FiveThirtyEight.com went through all of the data to determine which team’s schedules will get the toughest from here on out, and the Knicks are right near the top of the list.
Using their Elo ratings and adjusting for home-court advantage, Paine calculated the average opponent strength for each team in the first and second halves of the season. The Knicks had the easiest first-half schedule with an average opposing Elo of 1481, per Paine, but will face the third-toughest second-half schedule with an average opponent Elo of 1520.
All of that is just a very data-driven way to say that things won’t get any easier for the Knicks.
Looking at the schedule, the Kicks start the second half with a four-game road trip, taking on Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia. The beginning of May will also bring another tough stretch of games for the Knicks, as they go on a six-game road trip against Houston, Memphis, Denver, Phoenix, and both Los Angeles teams.
But as Thibodeau said after Thursday’s win over Detroit, the tough second-half slate will be a great test for his group.
“The challenge will be great. It should bring the best out in us, but just don’t change our approach, concentrate on improvement each and every day, and be ready for Milwaukee. That will be a great test for us first game out.”