Can the Knicks hold off the Nets?
THANK THOSE CLOWNS
The Knicks will hold off the Nets for the Atlantic Division title. And they'll owe a debt of gratitude to a bunch of clowns when they hoist the banner.
Why? The Nets are forced to hit the road for a brutal 17-day, eight-game road trip because Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus is performing at the Barclays Center.
That's a lengthy trip and, as the Knicks can attest, life on the road can be rough.
New York is home after a trying 1-4 road trip. Mike Woodson's club salvaged a win in Utah on Monday night thanks in part to the heroics of veteran Kurt Thomas, who suited up despite bone spurs in his right foot and made several plays down the stretch to spur the Knicks to a win.
Had the Knicks lost versus the Jazz, they'd be tied with Brooklyn for the division lead. Instead, they are a game up with three winnable games on the horizon -- Orlando and a home-and-home against Toronto.
Yes, overall, the schedule seems to favor the Nets. Ten of the Knicks' final 17 games come against teams currently in playoff position. Just five of the Nets' final 15 games are against prospective playoff teams.
But I think when it's all said and done, the Knicks will have enough in the tank to hold off Brooklyn.
If everything we're hearing about injuries to Carmelo Anthony (right knee) and Tyson Chandler (left knee, neck) is to be believed, both Knicks stars should be back on the floor at some point this week, most likely by this weekend's home-and-home set against Toronto.
At that point, the Nets will be in Los Angeles to take on a tough Clippers team with five games left on their long, strange trip.
Advantage: Knicks -- thanks, in no small part, to the circus.
Ian Begley covers the Knicks for ESPNNewYork.com.
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE SCHEDULE
Let's take a look at the remaining schedules of the Nets (39-28), Knicks (39-26) and Boston Celtics (36-30).
The Nets have 15 games left -- five at home and five against would-be playoff teams.
The Knicks have 17 games left -- nine at home and 10 against would-be playoff teams.
The Celtics have 16 games left -- seven at home and seven against would-be playoff teams.
They also have to face the Toronto Raptors, who are 2-0 against them this season, two more times.
The Nets, while they play the majority of their games on the road, only face six teams with .500-or-better records the rest of the way. They are 23-4 against sub-.500 teams this season (at time of game played). Deron Williams is finally playing like D-Will. And, right now, they're healthy.
The Celtics have been playing well of late, but without Rajon Rondo, it's hard to fathom them climbing over two teams, even if it is possible.
When it comes down to it, all three of these teams have a chance.
It just appears that the Nets have the best one.
Mike Mazzeo covers the Nets for ESPNNewYork.com.