Friday, June 25

Heres how Knicks can earn coveted fourth seed in NBA playoffs – New York Post

The Knicks are set to appear in the postseason for the first time since 2013, but they have not given up on their quest to maximize their playoff positioning over their final two regular-season games this weekend.

The Knicks need to win their final two home games against Hornets and Celtics – with some help involving the Hawks and the Heat – but RJ Barrett stressed they are still eyeing the coveted fourth-place finish in the Eastern Conference.

“Of course, most definitely, we definitely want that fourth seed. We want the home-court [advantage],” Barrett said after Thursday’s comeback win over the Spurs at the Garden. “All we can do is just continue to take care of business… This one’s over. We needed it, we got the win and it’s on to the next [game] now.”

Julius Randle added Thursday night that the Knicks would be “lying” if they didn’t admit they’ve been scoreboard watching, with the possibility of the Hawks (40-31), the Heat (39-31) and the Knicks (39-31) finishing in a three-way tie for the fourth, fifth and sixth playoff spots in the East if they all win out.

In that three-team tiebreaker scenario, Atlanta would earn the fourth seed as the winner of the Southeast Division, with Miami finishing fifth by virtue of winning the season series against the Knicks.

The Hawks’ lone remaining game Sunday is at home against the NBA-worst Rockets, who entered Friday’s game against the Clippers with a 5-44 record over their previous 49 games.

For the Knicks to leap both teams, they would need to win their remaining games and have Miami drop one of its final two Saturday in Milwaukee or Sunday at Detroit. The Knicks would win the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Hawks after sweeping all three regular-season games against Atlanta.

“It’s excitement, but we’re just really focused on Charlotte. We gotta take care of business, take care of our end and let the chips fall where they may,” Randle said when asked about the Knicks clinching a top-6 playoff berth and avoiding the 7-10 play-in scenarios. “I’m moving on, man. I can enjoy it and bask in all that at the end of the season

Alec Burks and RJ Barrett during the Knicks' win over the Spurs on May 13, 2021
Alec Burks and RJ Barrett during the Knicks’ win over the Spurs on May 13, 2021
NBAE via Getty Images

“Right now, I’m focused on Charlotte, focused on what we have next. I’m in the moment. I can appreciate all of that when [the season is] over.”

The Bucks still have a chance to catch the Nets for the No. 2 seed, but they would need Brooklyn to lose one of its final two games – both at home – against the Bulls and the Cavaliers. If the Nets take Saturday’s matinee against Chicago, might the Bucks rest stars such as Giannis Antetokounmpo or Khris Middleton against the sizzling Heat, who have won seven of their last eight games, or wait until Sunday’s finale against the Bulls?

After helping Tom Thibodeau’s team erase a 17-point second-half deficit against the Spurs, Barrett said all the Knicks can control is their own effort as they prepare for the playoffs, regardless of their seed or opponent.

The Hornets (33-37) enter Saturday’s game at MSG tied for the eighth and ninth play-in spots in the East with Indiana, but forwards Miles Bridges (health and safety protocols) and Gordon Hayward will not play against the Knicks.

“We still got two more games, so we still got to ramp it up even more and then once we get to the playoffs, it’s gonna be a whole different challenge,” Barrett said. “So we gotta keep going.”

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