Turns out the Knicks won't exactly have a meaningless regular-season finale after all.
By virtue of their 99-93 victory over the Clippers at the Garden Wednesday night, paired with wins by Orlando and Philadelphia, the Knicks are still playing for playoff seeding. They won't know their exact positioning until after Thursday night's matchup with the Bobcats in Charlotte, N.C.
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If the Knicks win, they will be the seventh seed and earn a first-round matchup with the Heat starting this weekend. If they lose and the 76ers beat the Pistons in Detroit, the Knicks would be the eighth seed and square off against the top-seeded Bulls. The Knicks also would get the seventh seed if the 76ers lose because the Knicks hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.
"It don't matter who we play," interim coach Mike Woodson said. "That's how I look at it, but I like to win. So I'm going into the game tomorrow with the idea that we are going to go in and play a solid game and win a game."
But they likely will have to try to hand the Bobcats (7-58) their 23rd consecutive defeat with key players Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler probably playing limited minutes -- if at all.
"I don't think I'll play," Anthony said. "I'm not sure yet. I'll figure that out [this morning]."
Said Stoudemire: "I think coach Woodson will try to figure out whether we are going to play or rest tomorrow. It's up to him. Whatever his call is, we are going to be open to it. So we are down for whatever."
Chandler thinks it's more important that he should rest his assortment of ailments rather than play in a game that's just for playoff seeding.
"It's more important for me to be fresh," Chandler said, "and being able to move around on the perimeter, depending on who we face. Either way, I have to be impactful in the pick-and-roll."
Heading into Wednesday night's action, the Knicks still had a slight chance to move up into the sixth seed, which would have earned them a first-round matchup with the Pacers. However, the Magic's 102-95 victory over Charlotte -- which concluded midway through the third quarter of the Knicks' game -- eliminated the Knicks from sixth-seed contention.
Woodson didn't play any of his starters other than Stoudemire in the fourth quarter, and when he checked out with 6:29 left, the Knicks were up 91-74. But the Clippers went on a 19-3 run and cut it to one on Blake Griffin's hook shot with 52.3 seconds left.
It took J.R. Smith's step- back 19-foot jumper from the top of the key with 31.7 seconds left to essentially put this one away at 96-93 and keep the Knicks' hopes alive for that seventh seed. Still, they insist there's no preference, and that they couldn't care less whether they match up with the top-seeded Bulls or second-seeded Heat.
"Both of those teams are great," Chandler said. "Chicago has had the best record in the league the past two years. So I don't know why everybody jumps ahead and says you should dodge Miami and play Chicago.
"I think both of those teams are 1-2, so you pick your poison on them. I feel like we have to believe in ourselves and it doesn't matter who we play."
Smith scored 21 points and Anthony added 17 for the Knicks, but Anthony was on the bench in the final minutes. Griffin had 29 points and 10 rebounds, and Randy Foye scored 28 points for the Clippers, who played without Chris Paul.