Beavers executed to max

Rich Fyle column

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

Plenty has occurred to the Knicks’ organization between when they last made the NBA playoffs in 2013 and now.

A countless list of head coaches and players have wandered in and out of Madison Square Garden over eight seasons. At the start of this current season back in December, it was expected that the Knicks would miss the postseason for an eighth consecutive campaign.

But something funny happened once the season began and the players started to believe in head coach Tom Thibodeau’s defensive-minded system. The Knicks began to jell and once point guard Derrick Rose was reacquired from the Pistons in early February, New York ascended in the NBA’s Eastern Conference standings.

After Sunday’s victory over the Celtics to conclude the regular season, the Knicks made the promised land.

The Knicks (41-31), who earned the fourth seed in the playoffs and avoided the pain-in-the-neck, play-in round as seeds 7 through 10, will open the quarterfinals at home this weekend against the fifth-seeded Hawks.

New York surged in the final 20 games of the regular season, going 16-4. Its style of playing smothering defense and unselfish offense helped make Thibodeau a very solid candidate for NBA Coach of the Year and star forward Julius Randle as Improved Player of the Year.

Thibodeau changed the culture of the organization, which in recent years was frowned upon by observers and the media. Remember, New York came off a 21-45 record in which the regular season was halted in March 2020 by the coronavirus pandemic.

In terms of winning percentage, the Knicks enjoyed their second-best season in the past 20 years other than the Atlantic Division-winning team in 2013.

Other than Rose, Taj Gibson, Nerlens Noel and Reggie Bullock, the Knicks don’t have a ton of playoff experience versus the talented, youthful and Southeast Division-winning Hawks (41-31) against whom the Knicks swept the season series, 3-0. It’s reasonable to expect the Knicks are capable of winning a playoff series, and they could be in line to face the top-seeded 76ers in the East semifinals.

The Knicks aren’t a championship-level team or anything close to that, but they are a squad that features hustle, fight and determination and make watching the games on TV enjoyable.

n Here is what to expect deep in the NBA playoffs:

EAST FINALS — Nets over 76ers in 7 games.

WEST FINALS — Suns over Jazz in 6 games.

FINALS — Nets over Suns in 7 games.

Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can reached at rfyle@wdt.net

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