Knick playoff scenarios: Breaking things down with three games to go

·4 min read
Knicks RJ Barrett and Julius Randle high five
Knicks RJ Barrett and Julius Randle high five

The Knicks had a chance to clinch a playoff spot on Tuesday but they lost in overtime to the Los Angeles Lakers.

The defeat left them in a three-way tie with the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference standings.

For multi-team ties, the NBA’s tiebreaking rules state that the division-winner is the first tie-breaker and head-to-head record is the second tie-breaker.

Based on those rules, Atlanta is currently in fourth place in the East because the team leads the Southeast division, by virtue of a 2-1 head-to-head record against Miami. The Heat are in fifth place due to a 3-0 head-to-head record against the Knicks.

That leaves New York in sixth place in the standings with three games to play.

The Knicks can clinch a playoff spot with one more win or one more Celtics loss. Boston plays at the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night.

New York finishes the season with home games against the San Antonio Spurs (Thursday), Charlotte Hornets (Saturday), and Boston (Sunday).

If the Knicks finish the season with the same record as the Heat and Hawks, they’d end up as the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. They would play either the Milwaukee Bucks or Nets in that scenario.

If the Knicks finish with the same record as Atlanta, they’d win the tiebreaker due to a 3-0 head-to-head record against the Hawks.

Atlanta finishes the season with a home back-to-back against the Washington Wizards (Wednesday) and Orlando Magic (Thursday) and a home game against the Houston Rockets on Sunday.

Miami hosts the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday and closes the season with a road back-to-back against Milwaukee (Saturday) and Detroit (Sunday).

The worst-case scenario for the Knicks? If they lose their final three games and the Celtics win their last three games, Boston would finish sixth because they’d own the tiebreaker against New York. The Knicks would finish in seventh and would need to win a game in the play-in tournament to advance to the playoffs.

Here are a few notes from Tuesday’s loss to the Lakers

The Knicks finished a tough West Coast trip at 3-3. That’s a strong result considering the quality of opponents on the trip. But they missed an opportunity to go 4-2 – and clinch a playoff spot – on Tuesday night in Los Angeles.

Tom Thibodeau cited New York’s rebounding as one of the biggest factors in the loss.

“All we had to do is get one rebound. The rebounding beat us tonight,” Thibodeau said, referencing the putback by Wesley Matthews with just over three seconds left in regulation that tied the game.

Julius Randle put the loss squarely on his shoulders, citing the shot he missed at the end of regulation several times in his postgame interview.

“I had a chance to finish the job, I’ve got to finish the job. That’s really my focus. I’m not focused on the rebound,” Randle said, referring to Matthews’ putback. “Things happen throughout the course of the game. You can’t blame one player. For me, I’m looking at myself and I’ve got to finish the job…. Put it on me.”

Randle was 11-for-26 from the floor but hit four of his eight 3-point attempts and made all five of his free throws. He hit several big shots late in the game, including a 3-pointer with 1:11 to go in overtime that gave New York a one-point lead.

Los Angeles’ Talen Horton Tucker answered with a 3-pointer with 20 seconds to play that gave Los Angeles the win on a night it was without LeBron James (ankle).

Afterward, Randle was focused on the runner that he missed at the end of regulation.

“Like I said, I put it on myself. For me to have the opportunity to finish the game off, I know my guys aren’t going to say it, (but) it comes down to that play. But for me I feel as a leader, I’ve got to finish that game,” Randle said. “So I’m not going to put it on nobody else. I’m going to put it on myself.”

The Knicks had a chance to win the game after Horton Tucker’s 3-pointer in overtime. But the Knicks looked disjointed on the last possession, which ended with RJ Barrett launching a jumper from 30 feet.

“Trust the pass. Trust the pass,” Thibodeau said when asked about the play.

The Knicks didn’t seem to trust the pass on Tuesday as much as they could. New York had 19 assists on 34 made shots. The Lakers had 31 assists on 37 made field goals.