By Moke Hamilton

With Wednesday night’s 110-81 victory over the Brooklyn Nets, the New York Knicks have regained the edge in the crosstown rivalry.

But more importantly, they have regained the edge over the Atlanta Hawks for the eighth seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. There is still basketball to be played, but surprisingly, the Knicks will wake up on Thursday morning as a playoff team, thanks to their leading the Hawks by win-percentage points.

Since March 5, the Knicks have gone 12-3, and while those who view the glass as half-empty will point out the fact that the majority of those wins have come against lesser-than-stellar competition, the Minnesota Timberwolves, Indiana Pacers, Golden State Warriors and yes, these Nets, have each been playing respectable basketball in their own right.

All four have fallen to the Knicks.

The biggest reason for optimism moving forward — and we say this in spite of terrible shellackings at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns — is simply effort.

Effort, as well as the play of both Amar’e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith.

The Knicks have been one of the league’s biggest enigmas this season. All season long, the NBA world collectively wondered why the Knicks—though not nearly as talented as the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers—were not winning more and in many of their losses, an apparent lack of effort and motivation was the culprit.

That has certainly not been the case over the past 15 games and with just seven remaining, it would be wise to judge today’s Knicks not by the results of the team they were earlier this season, but of the team they have become over the past few weeks.

As the season has progressed, Amar’e Stoudemire has gained not only confidence in operating from the low and mid-post, he has gained know-how. The most important thing that a post-player in the NBA can have is an impressive array of counter-moves. With Mason Plumlee guarding him down the stretch of the first quarter on Wednesday night, Stoudemire showed an ability to finesse his way to where he wanted to be in the low-post area simply by countering Plumlee’s planting and movements and it is something Stoudemire has developed quite well.

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