CLEVELAND -- Mike Woodson won't rest players just because the Knicks have sewn up a playoff berth. He wants them going into the postseason playing as well as they can.
"Getting in the playoffs is a plus, a big step in the right direction," Woodson said before Friday night's 98-90 loss to the Cavaliers. "We can move up as high as six. That's what I'm reminding these guys. We've got to continue to win. It's not about sitting down, resting and taking it easy until the playoffs starts. We got to continue to play."
But they didn't play well Friday night in a game they had figured to win, and their chances of catching the sixth-place Magic took a hit. The Knicks are 31/2 games behind Orlando, which has lost Dwight Howard for the season, and a half-game in front of the eighth-place 76ers. The most likely scenario is that the Knicks will finish seventh and face the Heat in the first round. If they finish eighth, they likely will play the Bulls. The sixth seed probably will play the Pacers.
"It doesn't matter who we play," Woodson said. "But I want us to continue to play well and win. That's the only thing that matters to me right now."
"That's great, two straight years of playoffs," said Amar'e Stoudemire, who scored 15 points Friday night after missing the previous 13 games with a back injury. "It's been a great start for us here, kind of revitalizing the Knicks. Now . . . going into this playoff hunt, we're looking to do something special."
Given that Baron Davis and Tyson Chandler have been playing through various injuries, it would be understandable if Woodson sat down players. After Friday's loss, Chandler sounded as if he would be open to it. But he wants to use the remaining games to get everyone as comfortable as possible and won't allow them to let up now.
"I got to get Amar'e back where he needs to be," Woodson said. "I've been on teams where guys were rested and it just destroyed what momentum you had going into the playoffs.
"I don't want to rest guys. I want guys to stay ready to play and feel good about themselves when they step out on the floor for the first playoff game."