Knicks control their destiny in battle for No. 4 seed in East

The alternative is there for the Knicks to punctuate their rebirth this season with home-court benefit in the opening spherical of the playoffs.

Tom Thibodeau’s resurgent workforce can clinch the coveted fourth seed in the Eastern Conference with a victory in the regular-season finale Sunday in opposition to the Celtics (who’re locked into the No. 7 play-in seed) on the Garden.

On Saturday afternoon, the Knicks took care of the primary of their remaining two video games, outlasting the Charlotte Hornets, 118-109, in time beyond regulation on the Garden for their fortieth win of the season. They immediately are in control of the No. 4 place in the East after the Heat misplaced, 122-108, later Saturday at No. 3 Milwaukee.

The Knicks at present are tied with Atlanta at 40-31, however they control the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Hawks, who will face the NBA-worst Rockets at house on Sunday night time. The Heat (39-32) are one sport behind each groups coming into their season finale in Detroit.

“For us we have to go step by step. We have a quick turnaround. We have to be ready for Boston,” Thibodeau mentioned after the Knicks’ matinee win. “You can’t fear concerning the different groups. But it’s your online business, so that you’re conscious of what’s occurring.

Julius Randle and Tom Thibodeau rejoice after their 118-109 time beyond regulation victory over the Hornets.

“For us the big thing was to take care of home court, take care of the game that we have at hand. If we’re taking care of all the little things the big things will take care of themselves. That’s the way we’ve approached it all season. We haven’t changed one bit.”

Julius Randle heard extra “MVP” chants whereas pacing the Knicks with 33 factors, 13 assists and 10 rebounds for his sixth triple-double of the season. Reggie Bullock buried 5 3-pointers, together with a key one in time beyond regulation, and completed with 17 factors. Alec Burks added 14 factors and middle Nerlens Noel performed one other robust defensive sport with 11 rebounds and 5 of the Knicks’ seven blocked photographs.

Elfrid Payton remained in the beginning lineup, but played just 12 minutes. Derrick Rose scored 15 factors in 25 minutes off the bench after lacking Thursday’s comeback win in opposition to the Spurs with a sprained ankle. Thibodeau mentioned Rose didn’t reinjure himself, however the coach went with a guard mixture of Immanuel Quickley (13 factors) and Burks down the stretch and in time beyond regulation, with each Rose and RJ Barrett on the bench.

“Both guys are fine,” Thibodeau mentioned. “It was the way the game was unfolding. We started off the third quarter really well. And then we hit a lull. We found a group who could go. That group ended up going well. So we stayed with them longer. They’re fine and will be ready to go [Sunday].”

Asked if the 32-year-old Rose was on a minutes restriction Saturday, Thibodeau responded “Our goal is to win.”

The Knicks led by as many as 17 in the third quarter, however Miles Bridges (30 factors) netted 16 in a 30-16 closeout run by the Hornets to slash the cushion to a few. Malik Monk’s drive early in the fourth nudged Charlotte forward, and Devonte’ Graham adopted with a 3-pointer for a 93-89 turnaround lead. The Knicks went again up, 102-101 on Randle’s trey with 5:19 to go.

Noel and the Knicks’ protection held Charlotte and not using a area purpose (0-for-5 with three turnovers) for greater than six minutes till Terry Rozier’s drive solid a 104-104 tie with 37.8 seconds remaining. But early 3-pointers by Burks and Bullock sparked a 14-2 burst to open the additional session.

Afterward, each Randle and Noel mentioned they’d be tuning in to the Heat’s sport later that night time in Milwaukee. They additionally had been requested if the Knicks, winners of 15 of 19, are a workforce opponents ought to need to keep away from in the playoffs.

“I can’t speak for other teams but whatever challenge or opponent is for us, we’ll be ready for, we’re excited and we’ll accept the challenge,” Randle mentioned.

“I heard some whispers early on in the season and the middle of the season,” Noel added. “I believe they know we’re undoubtedly a gritty, hard-playing workforce that’s in a position to play on each ends of the court docket, particularly when our protection is clicking. It generally is a sort of nightmare.

“I’m very confident in our abilities. No matter who the matchup is, we’ll be ready to go.”

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