TORONTO - The Knicks boarded a plane for Canada Thursday, embarking on what could be their last road trip and final meaningful game of the season.
Their playoff hopes, which are paper- thin, ride heavily on what happens in Toronto Friday night and not too far from home for the Knicks.
If the Knicks lose to the Raptors and the Hawks beat the Nets in Brooklyn, the playoff chase is over. The Knicks will be officially eliminated from postseason contention a year after winning 54 games and the Atlantic Division title.
"It is going to be tough," Amar'e Stoudemire said. "We put ourselves in this predicament which unfortunately we are in. We have to win every game at this point to get in. It has been a roller-coaster year for us so far, but to be optimistic, we got a chance to make the playoffs still. We just got to make sure we take care of business."
The Knicks are expected to have Carmelo Anthony in the lineup and hope the four days off between games have improved his injured right shoulder. Anthony was 9-for-31 with 23 points in the Knicks' last two games, both losses.
Even if the Knicks (33-45) win all four of their remaining games, it doesn't assure them a playoff spot. They would need Atlanta to go 1-3. The Hawks (35-43) hold the tiebreaker and their magic number for clinching is two. If the Knicks go 3-1, Atlanta has to drop its final four for Madison Square Garden to host playoff basketball.
"When it was 20 games [left], you're kind of locked into your own team, worrying about what you're doing," coach Mike Woodson said. "But now you got to keep a close eye on what Atlanta's doing because everything is going to be triggered off of them, and what we do the rest of the way."
Interestingly, Jason Kidd's Nets could help end the Knicks' season. Before Kidd was a main contributor for the Knicks last season, he took great pleasure in beating them when he played for the Nets.
Because the Nets are basically locked into the fifth seed, Kidd said he will start resting some of his regulars. If that's the case, the Hawks' chances of snapping the Nets' 14-game winning streak at Barclays Center could improve.
Even if the Knicks survive one more day, they could be bounced Saturday. Atlanta will hosts Miami, which also could sit some of its top players. Atlanta's final two games are against the playoff-bound Bobcats and NBA-worst Bucks.