CHICAGO - 'Game Seven.' 'Must win.' 'Huge game.'
Those were the words flying out of the Knicks' locker room early Wednesday morning after their loss to the Bulls.
And they all fit perfectly.
Because the Knicks will be playing the biggest game of their roller-coaster season in Milwaukee on Wednesday night.
New York's 98-86 loss to Chicago cut its lead over Milwaukee for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference to just one game.
So the importance of Wednesday's game can't be understated.
"It’s probably one of the biggest games of the season for us, and we gotta approach it like that," Carmelo Anthony said. "We gotta be ready. Forget this game, it’s behind us. We gotta move on."
They sure do.
If the Knicks lose on Wednesday, the ramifications could be damning.
A defeat would put them in a tie for eighth place with Milwaukee (28-29). But they'd lose the tie-breaker with Milwaukee based on head-to-head match ups (the Bucks are 2-1 against New York this year.)
"It's a must-win for us," Tyson Chandler said. "We have to approach this as if it's a Game Seven playoff game in all honesty."
They'll will tip-off in Milwaukee less than 20 hours after the final buzzer of Tuesday's game against the Bulls. Not an easy task, even by the standards of the condensed season.
"It is what it is," Anthony said.
It certainly is.
The Knicks (29-28) lost plenty of winnable games early in the season. So you could make an argument that their sluggish start has put them in this position (they were 8-15 in early February, before the emergence of Jeremy Lin.)
But what happened Tuesday night sure didn't help their cause.
The Knicks were smacked around by a Bulls team without Derrick Rose. Chicago dominated the Knicks on the interior and stifled any ball movement or spacing they had going on offense.
The Bulls out rebounded the Knicks, 51-33 and had an 18-5 edge on the offensive glass. Chicago ended up taking 17 more shots than the Knicks. The rebounding edge led to a sizable difference in second-chance points (25-5) and points in the paint (40-28) for Chicago.
"When you give a team 17 more shots, then more than likely you're not going to come up with a victory," said Chandler, who added that the Knicks looked 'flat' at times against the Bulls.
So now the Knicks are left with a win-or-fall-out-of-the-playoffs scenario Wednesday in Milwaukee. If the lost to the Bucks, they'd still have seven games to makeup ground. But no one in the visiting locker room wanted to think about that possibility late Tuesday night.
"We have to understand what's at stake," Chandler said. "Ultimately we hold our own future in our own hands."
That's true. And their future could be decided Wednesday. The 58th game of the season is now a Game 7 for the Knicks.
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