The Knicks have won seven of their first eight games and have the best record in the Eastern Conference, second in the NBA, behind only the Memphis Grizzlies at 8-1. All seven of those wins, including three on the road, have come against teams who made the playoffs last year, and all but one (Orlando) have come against teams generally predicted to have better records this year than the Knicks. Because these are the Knicks, and the Knicks have caused their fans such headache over the last decade-plus, there is a sense among some that this is not real, that this is some sort of pleasant early season anomaly. But all available evidence points to the opposite.
The Knicks trounced the Pacers — a team that's off to a slow start but still one thought to be among the best teams in the Eastern Conference this year — 88–76 yesterday afternoon at the Garden, and it was another one of those games in which the Knicks didn't play all that "well," that wasn't anything resembling eye candy, and yet another one they won with ease. By our calculations, the Knicks have played three terrific games this year: The first three, wins over Miami and Philadelphia. They were sluggish in wins over Orlando, Dallas, and now Indiana, overmatched in size by Memphis, and crazy hot at the end against San Antonio. The Knicks are winning games in which little goes right, and they're winning them handily. This is really all you can ask a basketball team to do.
It was a rough one yesterday — those noon starts are 93 percent grogginess at tipoff — but the Knicks still essentially controlled the game from the beginning. In a sign of just how outstanding Carmelo Anthony is playing right now, he had a team-high 26 points and nine rebounds and still probably contributed just as much on the defensive end, mixing it up and fighting the way it would have been inconceivable to imagine Carmelo doing this time last season. (Well, this time last season, the lockout was still going on. You know what we mean.) He is getting his points, but he's doing so much more than that: Carmelo is playing like a mid-nineties Knicks. It's something to see.
Everyone else is playing like that, too, from Raymond Felton (nine assists, no turnovers yesterday) to Rasheed Wallace (who had one of his "up" games yesterday after a few ugly ones) to Jason Kidd (who played most of the game reeling from a Lance Stephenson tooth to his skull). The Knicks are tough and grinding and elbow-throwing and being all the things they spent the off-season telling everyone they'd be, with no one believing them. At the beginning of this seven-game stretch with six on the road, we said a reasonable goal for the Knicks was to go 4-3. They're now 3-1, with New Orleans tonight, Dallas on Wednesday, and Houston on Friday. It's not reasonable to expect the Knicks to win all three. But the way this is going right now, it would be the furthest thing from a surprise. They don't even have to play well to win, over good teams. This is really something.