Knicks Notes: Finding the winning formula without Julius Randle, and playoff seeding scenarios

A few notes on the Knicks as they enter the final 10 days of the regular season...


Josh Hart called Thursday night’s game against Sacramento a "must-win" for the Knicks. The same can be said of their last six games. Each game could be crucial to their seeding in the Eastern Conference.

After Thursday’s win over the Kings, the Knicks are in fifth place in the conference. New York is 45-31, the same record as the No. 4 seed Magic, and a half-game back of the Cavaliers for the No. 3 seed.

Cleveland faces the Lakers and Clippers this weekend. The Cavs are coming off a loss to Phoenix and have dropped six of 10 overall.

Milwaukee’s end-of-season results could impact the Knicks in a variety of ways. New York plays at Milwaukee on Sunday night. The Bucks also play Orlando in two of their final three games.

If Milwaukee wins those games, it would help the Knicks create separation from Orlando. Those Bucks wins could also end any chance the Knicks have at getting the No. 2 seed. Though with six games to go, the Knicks face long odds to pass Milwaukee. They trail the Bucks by two in the loss column and the Bucks own the tie-breaker against the Knicks.

Orlando faces the Hornets and Rockets in their final stretch. They also play the Bulls and Sixers. In theory, those teams should be playing for playoff positioning against Orlando. So that could help the Knicks. New York, of course, plays the Bulls three times in the final six games. Chicago has competed well under Billy Donovan and will be motivated to win at least the first two matchups against New York.

New York Knicks guard Josh Hart (3) dribbles up court during the first half against the Milwaukee Bucks at Madison Square Garden


Hart hasn’t attempted a shot outside of the paint in the past two games.

It’s not that he doesn’t want to shoot from the perimeter. He can’t. The sprain in Hart’s right wrist won’t allow it.

"Right now, I gotta just attack the rim. Shooting the ball, I can’t really get the ball to the basket from three now," Hart said after his latest inspiring performance in a Knicks uniform.

Hart had 31 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in the pivotal win over Sacramento. The Knicks snapped a three-game losing streak and stayed in the thick of the race in the Eastern Conference.

They trailed by 21 early in the second quarter and fought all the way back behind strong play from Hart and Jalen Brunson (35 points, 11 assists). Brunson, Hart and Donte DiVincenzo combined for 87 points on 61.5 percent shooting.

"We were able to get stops and just kind of play our game," Hart said afterward. "Let Jalen dictate the offense and just play to our strengths."

With Randle out, that will be the formula for the Knicks for the foreseeable future. And it’s worked pretty well. The Knicks are 12-9 since Randle went down. They have a strong net rating (just under +5) in that span. And everything has been centered around Brunson. As ESPN’s Kevin Pelton notes, Brunson’s usage (35 percent) is the highest in the NBA since Randle's injury.

Brunson obviously has been able to maintain efficiency in that span. And the Knicks have had a top-five defense since the All-Star break. New York seems to have established a formula to win without OG Anunoby and Randle. With Anunoby potentially on the way back, the Knicks also have a clear shot at the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. There will be a lot to unpack over the final 10 days of the season.