Knicks aim to beat Pacers and lock up No. 2 seed
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The Knicks have one more thing to accomplish before the playoffs start, and the best-case scenario for them and Carmelo Anthony would be to get it done Sunday.
They can lock up the Eastern Conference's No. 2 seed by beating the third-place Indiana Pacers at the Garden. The Knicks then would have the home-court advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs.
The way Anthony has looked after the last two games, it's clear he could use some rest before the postseason opens for the Knicks on Saturday. A win Sunday and Anthony could have almost a week off.
"It's important for us to get that second seed," Anthony said. "Have home court in the first round, hopefully in the second round we do what we have to do. That's big. It gives us an opportunity to look forward to something. We want to clinch that second spot."
The Atlantic Division champion Knicks lead Indiana by three games with three to play, so their magic number to clinch the second spot is one. Even if they were to lose Sunday, they still would have two more chances to get it with a win or an Indiana loss.
The Knicks are at Charlotte Monday and host Atlanta Wednesday in their regular-season finale. The Pacers' last two games are at Boston and at home against the 76ers.
But the Knicks, who are 1-2 against Indiana, don't want to take any chances and would like to sew up the second spot Sunday. They're already short-handed and don't want to add more wear and tear on Anthony, 40-year-old Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton, who played Friday with a mildly sprained right knee.
If the Knicks beat the Pacers and clinch the No. 2 seed, Anthony said he'll consider "shutting it down, getting some rest." He's averaging 38.6 points and 10.6 rebounds in 37.2 minutes in seven April games, and he even has had to play some center because of how shorthanded the Knicks are. They've played the last two games with nine and 10 players, respectively.
Tyson Chandler has missed the last three games with a bulging disc in his neck and Kenyon Martin has been out two straight with a sprained left ankle. The Knicks are listing them as questionable for Sunday's game.
Some of the Knicks' potential playoff opponents have given some of their big guns a rest with the playoffs approaching. The Heat's LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the Celtics' Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, and the Bulls' Joakim Noah have all sat out multiple games lately because of injuries -- real or otherwise. It's hard to criticize this thinking, especially after Kobe Bryant suffered a season-ending torn Achilles tendon Friday night.
If the Knicks finish second, they likely will play Boston in the first round. If they finish third, Chicago and Atlanta are possible first-round matchups. Either way, the Knicks wouldn't face Miami until the conference finals.
Mike Woodson has said he will give Anthony or any other Knick off if they need to rest. But he also has stressed winning as many games as possible and getting the second seed to assure the Knicks of one more home game.
"It's very important," Woodson said. "When you get in a playoff series -- and we've proven this year we can win on the road and I feel good about that -- but it always helps to have home-court advantage."