New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau.

New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau. Credit: AP/John Munson

On Monday, the Knicks had a chance to rest.

Or at least for some teams, it might be a chance to rest after a grueling 82-game schedule that ended in an overtime battle to the final buzzer Sunday afternoon.

The Knicks don’t have an opponent in place yet as they await the result of Wednesday’s play-in game, so it was a perfect opportunity to relax.

But the Knicks didn’t get to the second seed, to 50 wins, by relaxing.

“Our video guys, our advance people, the assistants, they’re in heaven right now,” coach Tom Thibodeau said after Sunday’s win over Chicago that secured the second seed. “They’re preparing for everybody. It’s exciting. It’s a lot of work and those guys all do a great job. But we have to know everyone well. Once we know who our opponent is, we’ve got to dig in. We can already start. We’ll have a good idea of the possibilities and you go from there.”

The preparation is beginning in earnest, although maybe it’s not completely game-planning until after the opponent is set.

the Knicks already are well-acquainted with both the Miami Heat and the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Knicks won three of four from the 76ers this season, but only one of those included Joel Embiid in the lineup for Philadelphia. In that game, though, the Knicks blasted the 76ers in Philadelphia by 36 points in the third game after OG Anunoby arrived in New York.

The Knicks took two of three from Miami. However, after last season, when the Heat knocked them out in the Eastern Conference semifinals, they know full well that the regular-season performance of Miami can differ from the playoff run.

“First and foremost, you start building — not start building, you keep building on your habits you’ve been doing all season,” Donte DiVincenzo said. “You want to be as sharp as possible heading into that first game. Every team in the East we know pretty well, so then once we know, then you game-plan. Until then, you just keep building your habits and try to get as sharp as possible.”

Asked how the Knicks will approach these days, Jalen Brunson said, “The same, the same. Preparing, making sure we’re getting our minds right and then seeing where we’re at and going from there.”

Asked if he is scouting Philadelphia and Miami for a head start or worrying about the Knicks’ own work, he added, “Both.”

While the Knicks are a combined 5-2 against these two, it was clear that some teams in the NBA had little interest in landing in the spot where they could face Philadelphia or Miami. The Knicks ignored that notion, winning five straight games to finish the season.

Thibodeau and his team insisted that the only way they would approach the end of the regular season was trying to get better every day. That’s the same approach they’re taking now.

“We were trying to be the best team we could be,” Brunson said. “We’re trying to create good habits that will turn out on the court. So obviously going forward, we’re going to have a tough opponent, but we’re just focusing on, how can we be the best team that we can be?”

So even on this day for rest, maybe the last chance during what the team hopes is a long postseason run, there were players trickling into the practice facility.

“They all deserve credit, and I think the staff does too, from the standpoint of you start in the fall with ‘these are the habits we want to build,’ ” Thibodeau said. “We say it all the time: You want to establish a routine and you don’t want to deviate from that routine, so you’re ready for everything. I think if you’re not doing that, it’s like cramming for an exam. If you’ve been studying all along, your preparation will give you confidence.”


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