Knicks have already matched last season's win total

For most NBA teams, a 17-19 record isn't worth celebrating.

But for the 2015-16 New York Knicks, it is significant.

Last season, the Knicks earned win No. 17 in their next-to-last game. This season, they did it Tuesday night against the Atlanta Hawks, winning 107-101 to improve to 17-19.

If nothing else, the record is a sign that the organization has taken a step in the right direction. New York beat the Hawks, Eastern Conference finalists from a year ago, for the second time in three days, and did so thanks to a balanced effort.

Four Knicks had at least 15 points, and New York held Atlanta to 42 percent shooting. Carmelo Anthony continued to contribute in different areas of the game, finishing with seven assists and 11 rebounds on a night when he struggled from the floor, going 8-for-22.

Perhaps more significant, Anthony stood up for rookie Kristaps Porzingis late in the fourth quarter when Porzingis had a run-in with Kent Bazemore that resulted in a double technical. (You can see the full play here.) That's the kind of emotion and chemistry the Knicks rarely showed last season. And it's evidence of Anthony backing up his vow to be a “big brother” to Porzingis.

Speaking of Porzingis, he executed his first putback dunk in several weeks and poured in 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting to go with 11 rebounds.

Derek Fisher also deserves credit for the Knicks' recent success. In both games against the Hawks, Fisher used a nine-man rotation, inserting Porzingis at center in the second unit. This move led to a strong night for the Knicks' second unit and could be something that's seen more often.

But perhaps the biggest takeaway from Tuesday stems from what happened on one of the Knicks' final possessions.

With less than 25 seconds to play, Jose Calderon came off a screen from Anthony, and almost everyone in Phillips Arena expected Calderon to get the ball back to Anthony. But Anthony was covered, so Calderon fed the ball to Robin Lopez in the paint. Calderon then wisely cut to the basket when his defender inched toward Lopez, and Lopez fed Calderon in stride for a layup to put the Knicks up four with 18 seconds to play.

In a previous late-game situation, the Knicks might have forced the ball to Anthony and asked him to make a difficult shot.

In this scenario, they made a read within the offense and came up with an easy basket to seal the win.

Aside from all of the above, there's one more reason why win No. 17 was significant for New York. The club earned the win on Jan. 5, a year to the day after Phil Jackson blew up last year's team by sending Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith to Cleveland in a salary dump.

If things go Jackson's way, that trade and Tuesday night's win over the Hawks will be mere footnotes in his tenure as Knicks president.

But for the 2015-16 club, considering the circumstances, the victory couldn't have been more significant.