The Knicks may have already clinched their spot in the playoffs, but there’s still more work to be done when it comes to their seeding in the Eastern Conference.
Depending on how this final weekend of the regular season pans out, the Knicks could finish anywhere from fourth to sixth in the East.
On Thursday night, the Knicks handled their end, defeating the San Antonio Spurs, 102-98. Unfortunately for the Knicks, though, both the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat won their games as well, keeping them ahead of New York in the standings.
Julius Randle, who nearly recorded a triple-double with 25 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists, admitted that he was keeping one eye on those other games.
“You want the honest answer? I ain’t gonna lie, I was watching today, for sure,” Randle said. “People who say they’re not watching are liars. I was watching.”
Thursday’s win was no walk in the park for the Knicks, as they had to claw their way back from a 17-point third-quarter deficit. But as they’ve done all season, Tom Thibodeau’s group stuck to the course and locked in on the defensive end while hitting some big shots, working their way back for a big win.
“Just find a way to win, keep fighting, and that’s what we did,” Thibodeau said.
“I prefer not to be down 17, but that’s part of the game. We just have the belief that we can win, just keep fighting. When you get down that much, you fight to get it inside 10 … with the three, you can make up ground pretty quickly, so you just need to string together some stops and knock down a couple of shots and then you’re on your way, and that’s what we did. Just work the game. You get into stuff together, you get out of stuff together.”
The Knicks currently hold the same record as the Heat at 39-31, with the Hawks a half-game ahead at 40-31. The Knicks own the tiebreaker over Atlanta but not Miami and if all three ended with the same record, the Knicks would finish in sixth (Atlanta would be fourth as the division winner and Miami would be fifth with the tiebreaker over the Knicks), making New York’s final two games against the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday and Boston Celtics on Sunday vitally important.
Randle said that even though the Knicks took some time on Wednesday to celebrate their playoff berth, the focus now is on winning the next game on their schedule.
“We all talked last night,” Randle said. “Once we clinched, we all got on the phone, we all FaceTimed and talked, so we enjoyed that moment, but I’m moving on, man. I can enjoy it and bask in all that at the end of the season, but right now I’m focused on Charlotte, focused on what we have next. I’m in the moment, so I can appreciate all that when it’s over.
“It’s excitement, but we’re really just focused on Charlotte. We have to take care of business, take care of our end, and let the chips fall where they may.”