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Looking ahead is perhaps the worst thing the modern New York Knicks can do as they face the first of three chances to wrap up their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night (7 p.m. ET, MSG/NBA TV). 

One of their most cherished alumni did it for them during an appearance on SiriusXM NBA Radio, with John Starks believing that the Knicks are capable of eliminating not only the Cavs but the other beasts of the East lingering on the bracket. 

Starks, an eight-year Knick (1990-98) who played a major role in the team's run to the 1994 NBA Finals, said that he felt that his fifth-seeded successors were title-worthy long before they took a 3-1 lead on No. 4 Cleveland in their best-of-seven set, projecting them to represent their conference in this year's championship series.

No team seeded fifth or worse has reached the NBA Finals in an uninterrupted 82-game season since the 1994-95 Houston Rockets. Since then, the Knicks made it that far in the lockout-shortened 1999 season as an eighth seed before the Miami Heat won the East in the Walt Disney World bubble 21 years later. 

The negative history didn't stop Starks from making his prediction.

“I was telling someone that once I saw them midway through the season, once I watched this team do their thing against those top teams, I said, ‘This team can beat any team,’” Starks told hosts Rick Kamla and Antonio Daniels. “They’re good on the road. I like their chances.”

The Knicks posted a 24-17 record on the road in the regular season, good for one of the best marks in franchise history and the third-best winning percentage in the NBA this season. Wednesday's Game 5 returns the series to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, where the Knicks split the first two games.

Starks was also impressed with the way the Knicks carried themselves against the Eastern elites: removing an 0-3 mark against the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, New York went 8-4 against the teams ahead of them (Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland) on the Eastern bracket during the regular season. That mark improves to 11-5 if one includes Miami, the eighth seed with an equal 3-1 lead on the Bucks. 

If the Knicks ditch the Cavs, they'll play the winner of the Milwaukee-Miami series in the Eastern semifinals. Game 5 of that set is likewise scheduled for Wednesday night (9:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV).  

“I had the Knicks coming out of the East (because) I looked at how we competed against everybody in the East," Starks said. "I think we beat every team in the East, maybe not Milwaukee, but every other team in the East, we got either a better record or we split with them. The top teams, I'm talking about, I'm talking about Philly, Miami, Boston, Cleveland, those type of teams right there. I felt good that we had a good chance of coming out of the East.”

One more win over the Cavs would clinch the Knicks' first playoff advancement since 2013's opening round against Boston. 

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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