With the first seven teams (Bulls, Heat, Hawks, Celtics, 76ers, Magic, Pacers) shuffling for position it’s the eighth playoff spot that is still up for grabs between the New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks.  Let’s take a look at where both sit today and how the final weeks are expected to play out.

1.       The End of Linsanity

Actually, it’s not that Jeremy Lin is out for the year (although that’s a factor), but the fact that Baron Davis, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Carmelo Anthony are not playing 100% healthy.  Given the amount of back-to-backs in the condensed schedule the shortened season appears to be taking its toll.

2.       Trade Deadline Moves

The Bucks went “All In” by trading their franchise center Andrew Bogut for Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh, both of which have immediately contributed to the “new look” offense of the Bucks.  Bonus: Ditching Stephen Jackson (team cancer) as part of the deal.

3.       The Drew Gooden and Mike Dunleavy Jr. Factor

That’s right, read #3 again.  Both Drew Gooden and Mike Dunleavy Jr. are having career years.  Who knew Gooden would be a “serviceable” center and Dunleavy would be a sixth man of the year candidate.  Don’t lie, you didn’t know!  Of course, can Gooden stay healthy?  Well…

4.       The Schedules

The Bucks will play the majority of their remaining games at home.  They have a good chance of finishing with 5 wins (Pistons, Wizards, Nets, Raptors, 76ers) out of their final 8.  Losing the April 11 game vs. Knicks hurt.  The Knicks play the majority of their remaining games on the road, with a chance of finishing also with 5 wins (Wizards, Nets, Cavaliers, Clippers, Hornets) out of their final 8.  Take into account the two game lead they have been carrying and the April 11 game was even MORE important than initially thought!

5.       Momentum

This is where it gets tricky.  Both the Bucks and Knicks have been streaky all year.  The Knicks have gone on long winning streaks (remember Linsanity?) while the Bucks have put together strings of nice wins only to lose to inferior teams.

What does this all mean?  At this point the smart money has the Knicks keeping pace over the Bucks for the rights to get smoked by the Chicago Bulls in four.

 

David S. Grant is the author of “BLOOD: The New Red”, follow David on Twitter: @david_s_grant