FILE - New York Knicks' Amar'e Stoudemire wears a boot...

FILE - New York Knicks' Amar'e Stoudemire wears a boot on his foot as he looks on during a timeout in the fourth quarter. (April 8, 2011) Credit: AP

Amar'e Stoudemire sprinted up the court, turned and sprinted back down. It was a sequence he repeated several times until sweat beaded on his forehead and he was satisfied enough people noticed.

Wearing a blue T-shirt with the word, "Clinched!," Stoudemire had a more important message to send.

"My ankle feels great, I could play tonight if I had to," he wrote on Twitter shortly after his workout before Tuesday night's 103-90 loss to the Bulls. "We are in a great position, don't want to take the chance. Playoffs are near!"

Stoudemire sat out Tuesday night's game, his third straight, as he continues to nurse a sprained left ankle. But concerns about Stoudemire's readiness for the playoffs, which are expected to begin Sunday in Boston, were answered when he went through his usual pregame workout routine.

"If it was the playoffs," Mike D'Antoni said before the game, "he's playing."

He didn't play because the Knicks fate is already sealed with a first-round matchup with the Celtics. The Bulls, however, still have their eyes on the top overall record in the NBA, which would give them home court advantage in the NBA Finals.

Yes, the Bulls have such lofty aspirations; while the Knicks are hoping to one day get there. The difference was noticeable after a competitive first half, when the Bulls came out for the third quarter, they took their game to another level by overwhelming the Knicks with a 26-2 run to open the half.

Derrick Rose, the leading candidate for the NBA MVP, scored 11 of his 26 points in the run, including a steal that led to an electrifying double-pump reverse dunk that had the Garden crowd buzzing like the days when Michael Jordan came to town.

The Knicks did battle back to make it a game in the fourth, as Toney Douglas hit a runner with 11:13 left in the fourth to cut it to 84-78.

Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 21 points.

There's still one game left before the playoffs begin in Boston and that game happens also to be in Boston Wednesday night. Stoudemire, Anthony and Chauncey Billups won't play. Asked if the game had any significance, Billups replied, "No significance, none."

Doc Rivers already pulled the plug on the season when he sat his Big Three-plus-One (Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo) in Monday's loss in Washington. That defeat, coupled with Miami's win over Atlanta, ensured that the Celtics would face the Knicks in the first round.

Rivers said he did it because his team needed the rest. All indications are that the four stars will sit out of Wednesday night's game in Boston, as well.

"The way we're playing right now, I think we do need it," Rivers said on Monday of his team, which has lost seven of its last 12 games.

Notes & quotes: If Stoudemire doesn't play Wednesday night, he will have made it through the final 27 games of the season without a technical foul. He has 15 on the season, which is one shy of an automatic suspension. In the playoffs, the technical fouls are reset to zero. After a seventh technical foul in the playoffs, a player is automatically suspended.