The streaking Knicks, their magic number at one, can capture their first Atlantic Division crown since 1993-94 tonight at the Garden against the hapless Wizards.
There will be no champagne flowing, however, just Powerade and talk about the division title being the first step to the ultimate prize of breaking the 40-year championship drought.
Coach Mike Woodson stepped up the title talk yesterday on his weekly radio show on WEPN Radio, saying: “It’s desperate times for our team to win and win now. That’s how it should be. We’re in desperate times right now to try to win an NBA title, absolutely. ... The big picture is trying to bring a title to New York. This is just one step.’’
With a Knicks victory tonight or a Nets loss to the Sixers, the 2012-13 Atlantic banner will join eight others near the Garden’s pinwheeled ceiling. Perhaps the first NBA title banner in 40 years will go up, too.
The Knicks (50-26) will put their dirty-dozen winning streak on the line as they go for a lucky 13, coming off Sunday’s 125-120 shootout win in Oklahoma City. The thrilling victory was widely viewed as validating them as serious title contenders.
“We’re a great team coming all together at the right time, with great confidence going into the playoffs,’’ J.R. Smith said.
They have beaten San Antonio twice, beaten Miami three of four times, beaten Oklahoma City on the road and lost by one point to the Thunder at the Garden without Carmelo Anthony. It’s a pretty impressive resume — a squad that has overcome a battery of injuries because of unprecedented depth.
“It tells me our guys are committed to winning,’’ Woodson said of the win over the Thunder. “You don’t win 12 in a row if they’re not committed.”