With just four games remaining, the question surrounding the New York Knicks isn’t whether or not they’ll make the playoffs, but who they’ll have to face once they get there.
After their latest win over the LA Clippers, they are 38-30 and the Eastern Conference fourth-seed.
No team has exceeded expectations more than the Knicks, who’ve outpaced their projected 22 wins total by 116 games.
And they’re not done yet.
Reggie Bullock the X-Factor?
The NBA postseason is a different brand of basketball.
It’s a more aggressive, intense, and overall high-stakes environment.
As we’ve seen in the past, this kind of circumstance can often bring the best out of players.
Look at last year’s Miami Heat team who made the improbable run from fifth seed in the Eastern Conference to the 2020 NBA Finals.
Rookie guard Tyler Herro came alive in the postseason and had some huge moments that helped fueled their deep push.
Regarding the New York Knicks, Marc Berman of the New York Post recently spoke to some NBA scouts about their upcoming playoff run. One scout heralded veteran wing Reggie Bullock as the team’s own x-factor:
One talent evaluator believes starting shooting guard Reggie Bullock is the key to beating Boston or Miami as he looks to lock down Brown or Jimmy Butler. “They need a huge playoff from Bullock,’’ the talent evaluator said.
Bullock is averaging 10.9 points per game on 41 percent shooting from behind the arc.
Both his three-point shooting and his defense have been pivotal in a year where New York’s struggled on offense but nearly lead the league on the defensive end.
So far, he’s yet to not step up to the plate when called upon as the next man up. Look at the team’s latest win over the LA Clippers, where he poured in 24 points and five threes.
Julius Randle had a tough night, shooting seven-for-19 from the field and scoring only 14 points. So Bullock came through and in a big way, scoring 22 of his 24 through the first three quarters.
It’s the most points he’s scored since 2018, and the Knicks are now 6-3 when he makes five or more threes.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau’s raved about the 29-year old all season long, but reached a new tier of praise after Sunday’s game in calling him the team’s “unsung hero.”
Reggie Bullock’s value to the New York Knicks simply cannot be overstated.
Playing His Role
The term “three-and-d wing” has become overused in today’s NBA.
But in Reggie Bullock, its true definition lives on, personified in his two-way play.
The veteran wing has supplanted himself as one of the league’s better perimeter defenders this season, featured in Tom Thibodeau’s starting lineup, and a large contributor to the team’s top-5 defense.
Regarding a potential meeting with the Boston Celtics, it seems worth mentioning that in two games this season he’s held Jaylen Brown to three-of-eight shooting from the field and one-of-five from three.
But Miami’s Jimmy Butler shot four-of-eight from the field with Bullock as his primary defender across three games this year. The Knicks, coincidentally, went 0-3 against the Heat this season.
New York isn’t incapable of winning when Bullock’s struggling on defense. But when he’s locking down opposing stars, it increases their chances of winning nearly two-fold.
In Sunday’s matchup with the Clippers, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combined to shoot six-of-18 from three.
Don’t doubt that Bullock played a large part in that, as the team will need him to come the postseason.
Updated Knicks Playoff Odds
After their win over the LA Clippers, the New York Knicks are 38-30.
According to Five Thirty Eight’s forecast, their chances at making the playoffs have climbed to 99 percent.
But the website is still giving the team a less than one percent shot at making and/or winning the 2021 NBA Finals.
That number could increase if they retain homecourt going into the postseason.
New York’s currently got a game lead over both the fifth-seed Atlanta Hawks and the sixth-seed Miami Heat, and a three-game lead over the seventh-seed Boston Celtics.
Elsewhere, Action Network is giving the Knicks a 42.1 percent chance to enter the playoffs as the fourth seed, and a 30.7 percent shot to enter as the fifth seed.
Tankathon.com has New York’s remaining schedule as only the 16th toughest in the entire NBA.
Four games to go.
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