Each weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.
Today's Burning Question: Even with their recent decline, an 0-4 road trip so far and injuries to star players, can the Knicks still win the Atlantic Division?
Even though the Nets' loss to the Hawks on Sunday night means the Knicks still lead the Atlantic Division by one game, it doesn't get any easier for the blue and orange.
With the Nets (38-28) and Celtics (36-29) trailing slightly in the Atlantic race, the Knicks (38-26) have the most difficult schedule ahead. Of their final 18 games, they play the Raptors twice -- Toronto beat the Knicks the past two times -- the Celtics and Hawks twice, as well as the Grizzlies, Heat, Bucks, Thunder, Bulls and Pacers.
Then there's the personnel problem. Not only will Amar'e Stoudemire miss all of those games, but Carmelo Anthony, who's missed four games recently with a sore right knee, doesn't have a return date and may need his minutes curtailed the rest of the way. Tyson Chandler's health status -- not his left knee, but a neck strain -- is much better.
If the Knicks continue where they are, it would be their first division title since the 1993-94 season. And what happened that year? They made it to the NBA Finals.
Their division foes, the Nets and Celtics, have it a bit easier down the road -- and they're healthier. While the Nets only have five home games out of their final 16 of the season -- they begin an eight-game road trip on Monday -- their toughest challengers are just the Clippers, Nuggets, Bulls, Celtics and Pacers. The Nets are starting to pick it up a bit, winning four of their last six games.
The Celtics are not on the road as much, and they'll be facing the Knicks and Heat twice, plus the Grizzlies, Hawks, Nets and Pacers. Remarkably, they've been playing some of their best basketball of the season since Rajon Rondo went down with a right ACL tear. They're now 16-6 in his absence.
The Knicks obviously have a lot of loose parts to "complete the puzzle" Mike Woodson always refers to in building an Atlantic Division crown.
Do you think the Knicks can still win the Atlantic? Leave us your comments below.
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