NBA Playoffs predictions are starting to emerge, and many league watchers are starting to ask: How far can the New York Knicks go?
The Knicks haven't had a deep NBA playoffs run in years, so New York fans are hoping this could be the year they make it to the Eastern Conference Finals or even a title.
But the jury is still out on how good the Knicks even are. They started this season in their typical good players playing badly way, but then Jeremy Lin took the team by the horns and they looked like the best Knickerbockers squad since Patrick Ewing.
But Linsanity didn't last, and as the team suffered injuries to Carmelo Anthony, Amare' Stoudamire and Lin, the team slumped, losing seven in a row.
The streak of losses left the team's fans angry with coach Mike D'Antoni, who stepped down a couple of weeks ago, leaving the Knicks' future as uncertain as it had been all year.
But then something magical happened under interim head coach Mike Woodson, who led them to a string of wins including key ones against the mighty Chicago Bulls.
So the team is surging as the end of the season nears, and that's without Stoudamire and Lin. Baron Davis, J.R. Smith, Steve Novak, Jared Jefferies, Iman Shumpert and Landry Fields are all stepping up to fill key parts in the line-up, while Tyson Chandler and Anthony are leading the team on offense. The team is gelling right at the right time, and it looks likely that the Knicks should be able to be a real contender in the 2012 NBA playoffs.
So as NBA playoffs predictions start to be made, it's not unreasonable to ask if the Knicks will be able to keep the team running hot and make it past the first or second rounds.
If standings stay as they are now, the Knicks will earn an eight-seed, meaning that they'll play against the Chicago Bulls in the first round. This is a match-up that seems insurmountable if you consider that Derrick Rose and the Bulls have the best record in the NBA at 45-14. The Knicks meanwhile are 30-28.
But the Knicks have proven that they have what it takes to take down the Bulls, as they topped them 100-99 in overtime on April 8. The Bulls-Knicks showdown will be a struggle, but the Knicks are better poised to win it than many others would likely be.
If the Knicks can knock out the one-seeded Bulls, they will have another difficult match-up in the second round, either against the Orlando Magic or the Boston Celtics. Either of these teams will be easier to surpass than the Bulls, so the Knicks should be able to dispense with them after the emotional high of beating the Bulls.
The Magic are in flux over comments Stan Van Gundy made about star center Dwight Howard, who has been in injury trouble, and is currently out with back spasms.
And the Celtics are a powerful, experienced team, but the Knicks have been there, done that many times before, having gone 1-2 vs. them so far this year. They play each other once more before the season concludes, so the outcome of that contest will give us some more insight into how they will play against each other if they meet in the postseason.
If the Knicks can get past the second round, they will most likely face the Miami Heat, which is where they have the least chance of succeeding, despite the fact that the Heat have lost six of their past 11 games.
The Knicks have been unable to beat the Heat so far this season, and the Heat have the talent needed to shut down a team like the Knicks, so it would not be the best bet to assume that the Knicks will be able to get past the Heat if they meet in the Eastern Conference Finals.
But the Knicks do have a good chance of winning one or two series this postseason, so the playoffs should be fun for New York fans to watch as the world's best basketball teams face off in pursuit of a title.