The New York Knicks have secured their spot in the 2021 NBA Playoffs, putting an end to the third-longest postseason drought in the NBA.
A season worth plenty of excitement continues as the Knicks bring a physical brand of basketball to the playoffs.
Before the intensity ramps up, here's a moment that's Made to Chill for the Knicks.
For the first time since 2013…
Playoff basketball is back in Madison Square Garden.
It's been eight long years since the Knicks have experienced postseason basketball when they advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals thanks to the play of Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton.
Just how long ago was it? Julius Randle was finishing up his senior year of high school and R.J. Barrett had yet to turn 13. Alec Burks, Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose are the only three members of this current Knicks team that were in the NBA that season, albeit as members of the Utah Jazz and Chicago Bulls, respectively.
Not only are the Knicks poised for a postseason return, but they are also in good standing to earn home court advantage in the opening round, provided they finish ahead of the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat.
This season, New York is 22-11 through its first 33 games at home, which could be a sign of things to come should it open the postseason at MSG.
Julius Randle takes the Playoffs
A first-time All-Star, the favourite to win Most Improved Player and potentially an All-NBA selection, Randle's next task is to take the postseason stage for the first time in his career.
Year 7 for the 26-year-old has been the best one yet, as he's averaged 23.9 points, 10.3 rebounds and 5.9 assists to stand at the forefront of the Knicks resurgence. As one of a number of big names to make their postseason debut in 2021, Randle will be looked upon to replicate his breakout regular-season performance on the big stage.
He's proving that he's built for it.
As the Knicks could potentially finish fourth or fifth to meet the Atlanta Hawks or Miami Heat in the opening round, the team should have realistic expectations to advance to the second round in 2021. Neither Atlanta or Miami are weak opponents, but the teams don't pose the same issues like the East's top three teams.
Randle has an opportunity to be the best player on the floor for the course of a postseason series and if that's the case, the second round could quickly become a reality.
Defence, defence, defence
There's no denying the impact that Tom Thibodeau has had on the Knicks during his first season at the helm.
New York's defensive rating of 108.1 ranks fourth in the NBA , behind only the Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers and defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. The Knicks have a defensive identity that they've embraced and stuck to, making life difficult for their opponents in the process.
In the postseason, a defensive identity is paramount to success.
Thibodeau is no stranger to the playoffs, coordinating the 2007-08 Boston Celtics' championship defence while leading the 2010-11 Bulls - that featured Gibson and Rose - to the Eastern Conference Finals. 10 years later, Thibodeau's expertise and game planning will be a key to New York's playoff ceiling.
The playoffs are all about strategy and adjustments and with Thibodeau on the sidelines, the Knicks have an advantage in each regard.
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