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How the Knicks can improve their NBA Draft Lottery odds

Orlando Magic guard Mario Hezonja, left, is tied

Orlando Magic guard Mario Hezonja, left, is tied up by Knicks forward Lance Thomas on Feb. 22, 2018. Photo Credit: AP / Phelan M. Ebenhack

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Knicks couldn’t be one of the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference, but they still have a shot at being one of the bottom eight teams in the NBA.

At this point, accomplishing that would be a victory.

As they finish up their fourth straight season of at least 50 losses, the Knicks need as much help as they can get, and the best draft pick possible would be a good start.

With five games to go, the Knicks (27-50) have the NBA’s ninth-worst record. They are one game up on the Bulls, who aren’t necessarily trying to win, and they’re two ahead of the Nets, who traded away their first-round pick.

Jeff Hornacek said he isn’t approaching these games any differently or planning to give the younger guys more minutes. He also said moving up in the lottery standings is not at the forefront of their minds.

“If you ask any of the players or coaches, that’s not [a thought],” Hornacek said after practice Monday. “We’ve said it all along that that’s not what we’re trying to do. With the guys out there, we’re trying to win the game, and that’s what we want from them.”

If the Knicks finish ninth, they have a 6.1-percent chance of getting a top-three pick. If they finish eighth, it moves to 9.9 percent, and if they finish seventh, it jumps to 15.0 percent.

The Knicks have the toughest remaining schedule of the three teams. Their five games are against teams that are a combined 12 games over .500. The Bulls face teams a combined 37 games below .500. The Nets’ opponents are one game above .500, but they play the Bulls twice.

The Knicks have a winnable game Tuesday against the Orlando Magic, which has the fourth-worst record at 22-54. Orlando has won only four of its last 22. The Knicks have won four of their last 26, but one was against the Magic.

Enes Kanter (lower back, wrist) is doubtful. Troy Williams had surgery to repair the jaw he fractured in Saturday’s loss and is done for the season. Michael Beasley (illness) didn’t practice and is questionable.

After Orlando, the Knicks host the Heat and Bucks on back-to-back nights. Neither team has clinched and both are playing for seeding. The Knicks end the season with a home-and-home against the Cavaliers. It’s hard to say at this point whether the Cavs will be playing for something and how much LeBron James will play.

If the Knicks go 1-4, they would need the Bulls to go 2-3 to force a coin flip for lottery position. Chicago hosts Charlotte, plays at Boston, has a home-and-home with the Nets and closes out the season against Detroit. The Bulls are 6-14 since the All-Star break.

When they played at the Garden two weeks, the Bulls left Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn in Chicago and held out Robin Lopez. That victory over the Bulls could come back to bite the Knicks.

The Nets play four of their last five on the road — at Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Chicago and Boston — and one home game against the Bulls, who have shut down LaVine and Dunn for the rest of the season.

Philadelphia and Milwaukee are still playing for something, but the Nets’ last three games are winnable. They play two against the Bulls and also face the Celtics, who could have their playoff position wrapped up by then.


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