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Schedule released, but Tom Thibodeau isn't figuring out Knicks' playoff chances

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau reacts as he

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau reacts as he coaches against the Clippers during the first half of an NBA game on Jan. 31 at Madison Square Garden. Credit: AP/Brad Penner

When the NBA’s second-half schedule was announced on Wednesday, did coach Tom Thibodeau start plotting how many wins the Knicks are going to need to make the playoffs and just where those wins might come from – because that’s probably what a lot of fans did.

The short answer: No.

Thibodeau doesn’t just talk in coachspeak. He lives it, breathes it, believes it. So maybe he stole a glance at the schedule. But then he probably went right back to preparing for Thursday night’s home game against Sacramento.

"I don’t want us to get lost in looking too far ahead," Thibodeau said before the second game at the Garden with fans this season. "I want us to concentrate on exactly what’s in front of us. That’s important. I think if you start looking ahead like that, you’re going to skip over steps that you need to take. So approach it day-by-day. Come in, focus on our next opponent, concentrate on the team’s improvement and what we have to do to be successful."


The Kings had lost eight in a row going into the game, but they gave the Nets a good run before succumbing in the fourth quarter in Brooklyn on Tuesday.

On Thursday, the Knicks were without starting point guard Elfrid Payton, who was ruled out before game time because of a sore right hamstring.

Derrick Rose got the start, his first one in eight games since joining the Knicks in a trade with Detroit on Feb. 8.

"I think it’s not hard – it’s basketball," Rose said. "It’s still basketball. Giving guys the ball where they want the ball. Thibs will put us in a great spot to be prepared in certain situations. My job is just to push the ball. Just play my game. I don’t think I have to overthink. I’ve been starting for the majority of my career. It shouldn’t be too hard."

The Knicks went into Thursday tied for eighth place in the Eastern Conference at 15-17. Their 35-game second-half slate opens with a four-game road trip that begins in Milwaukee on March 11. Their first home game is March 18 vs. Orlando.

The club has not yet released information on second-half tickets or how many fans will be allowed into the Garden. It is currently about 2,000.

The Knicks will play on national television five times in the second half, starting with April 5 against the Nets in Brooklyn.

Kristaps Porzingis and the Dallas Mavericks will visit the Garden on April 2. LeBron James and the defending champion Lakers come to town on April 12. Zion Williamson will make his MSG debut as an NBA player when New Orleans visits on April 18.

The home game against San Antonio from Saturday that was postponed because of a COVID-19 outbreak among the Spurs has been rescheduled for May 13 at 7:30.

The Knicks will embark on their longest road trip of the season from May 2-11, when they play six games (in Houston, Memphis, Denver, Phoenix and finally Los Angeles vs. the Clippers and then the Lakers).

The regular-season finale is scheduled for May 16 vs. Boston at the Garden. Well before then, the Knicks’ playoff chances will be in sharper focus. Fans hope to be watching the scoreboard down the stretch -- but don’t expect Thibodeau or veterans such as Rose to join them.

"I don’t watch basketball when I’m at the house," Rose said. "Thirteen years in, I’ll watch a game if I’m at a restaurant or something like that, eating, but if I’m at home I’m with the kids and I’m watching whatever they’re watching. That’s probably ‘Baby Shark’ or something. I rarely watch basketball."

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