Every NBA season brings with it scheduling quirks and headaches, and the Knicks just finished up one of their tougher ones. Starting on Wednesday night, they had four games in five days; two of which were on the road, and all but one were against teams that made the playoffs last year and were considered legitimate contenders coming into this season. For two of those games, they were without Carmelo Anthony. And with last night's 112–106 win over the Denver Nuggets, they ended up 3-1 in those games. That's all you could ask for. That's more than you could ask for.
For long stretches last night, this looked like it would be the Knicks' first home loss. They looked tired most of the night, and the Nuggets' fast pace made it that much tougher for them to keep up. Carmelo looked rusty (and like his finger hurt, really), and the Knicks trailed by four heading into the fourth quarter. Then, as they have a tendency to do, they took over. Steve Novak hit a couple of threes, Jason Kidd kept the ball moving (after coming out at halftime in a Rangers helmet), and Carmelo made his big shots. The Nuggets looked like the more invigorated, more alive team ... but the Knicks looked like the one that actually knew how to win. It's funny how the Knicks looked like this weathered, battle-tested team even though they've won one playoff game in more than a decade. Veterans do make a difference, it seems.
This felt like a game the Knicks were going to lose, which makes the win that much more satisfying. Particularly because: That hard part of the schedule is now over. They don't have to play outside the city again until Christmas Day. Here's the sked until Santa comes:
Tuesday: at Brooklyn
Thursday: vs. LA Lakers
Saturday: vs. Cleveland
Monday, December 17: vs. Houston (you might hear a bit about this game)
Wednesday, December 19: vs. Brooklyn
Friday, December 21: vs. Chicago
Sunday, December 23: vs. Minnesota
Lots of winnable home games in there, along with some truly fascinating subplots. The Knicks are currently 15-5 and in the top spot in the Eastern Conference. (They also have a three and a half game lead in the Atlantic Division already.) And so many games at the Garden, where they're still undefeated. We'll all have to get revved up for that game at Barclays tomorrow night, but for now, the Knicks are sitting prettier than we can remember them in ten years.