WHAT IT MEANS: The Knicks won their final home game of the season Wednesday night and remained in contention for the seventh seed in the East.
But the Magic's win over the Bobcats means the Knicks can finish no higher than seventh, setting up a first-round matchup against either the top-seeded Bulls or the Heat.
DIFFERENCE-MAKER: The Knicks' bench. It started with J.R. Smith at the end of the first quarter when he scored five points, putting the team up 24-19 to end the period. Then, at the start of the second quarter, Steve Novak hit two 3-pointers within a minute. And after Landry Fields pitched in with six points, the Knicks had built a double-digit lead midway through the second quarter.
In the second half, especially the fourth quarter, Smith's playmaking as the point guard and Novak's baseline 3-point shooting helped put away the Clippers. Overall, the Knicks had 43 bench points (Smith had 21), while the Clippers had only 20.
THE GOOD: 1. First-half interior defense. The Clippers scored only four points in the paint in the first quarter (by comparison, the Knicks had 10). While power forward Blake Griffin had six points at halftime, his effective frontcourt sidekick, DeAndre Jordan, had zero. And the best part? No dunks by either of them.
2. Tyson Chandler's big third quarter. The Knicks' center hardly touched the ball in the first half, scoring just three points. But the Knicks worked the ball better inside, getting Chandler calls and trips to the foul line. He had seven points in the third, keeping the Clippers out of reach at the quarter buzzer, 74-66.
3. Baron Davis' quickness. He seems to be regaining some explosiveness day by day. Tonight, he had an extra spark driving to the basket and finished with 12 points in only 19 minutes. He just needs to build more of a consistent rhythm with Chandler and Amare Stoudemire in the pick-and-roll.
BOLD PLAY OF THE GAME: With 2:33 left in the second quarter, Davis initiated the 3-on-1 fast break with Carmelo Anthony and Iman Shumpert trailing, and after his pass to Melo for a layup bounced off of the rim, the rookie threw down a one-hand putback dunk.
THE BAD: 1. Stoudemire's defense. While it's not one of his strong suits, he has to buy into Mike Woodson's team approach a bit better. The Clippers scored on Stoudemire several times in the post. In addition, the team's perimeter rotations lacked energy. The Clippers shot 11-for-25 (44 percent) from downtown.
2. Anthony's overdone isolation play in the first quarter. The Knicks hardly ran the pick-and-roll with Stoudemire and Chandler. Instead they went through Melo -- a lot -- in the first period, during which he scored nine points (he had 17 for the game). As for Stoudemire and Chandler? They combined for just one point. The Knicks will need to get accustomed to better offensive balance to open the game.
3. Second-half interior defense. After the Knicks held Griffin to Jordan to zero dunks in the first half, Griffin had three and Jordan had one in the second half. Their overall inside play, especially Griffin's, leaked into the Knicks' lead toward the end of the fourth quarter and made the game a bit interesting.
WHAT'S NEXT: The final day of determining seeding. Even if the Knicks beat the Bobcats on Thursday (tip-off at 8 p.m. ET) and the Sixers also win against the Pistons, and end up with the same 36-30 record, the Knicks will secure the seventh seed and play the second-seeded Heat in the first round. That's because the Knicks own the tiebreaker based on head-to-head matchups during the regular season (2-1).
But if the Knicks lose and the Sixers win, the Knicks will fall to the eighth seed, which many believe would be a better situation for them because then they would avoid the offensive juggernaut Heat and face the Bulls with a gimpy Derrick Rose instead.
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