WHAT IT MEANS: For the first time since 2004, the Knicks are going to the playoffs. They've basically known since January that they were going, but this victory combined with the Charlotte Bobcats' loss to the Washington Wizards made it a certainty. Also, the Knicks avoided the dubious distinction of being swept in the season series by the NBA's worst team after the Cavs defeated them in their first three meetings -- including a stretch from Nov. 20 through Feb. 9 in which Cleveland lost 36 of 37 games, their lone victory coming against the Knicks. Games against poor teams are poor measuring sticks, but the Knicks got balanced scoring from their big three (Amare Stoudemire scored 28, Carmelo Anthony had 25 and Chauncey Billups added 23) and 36 points from their bench players.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Billups made his first seven shot attempts before airballing a 3-pointer late in the second quarter as the Cavs were in the midst of making a comeback from a 22-point deficit. Billups was 6-for-6 for 17 points in the first quarter, when the Knicks forced eight turnovers to set the tone on a night when they ended up forcing the Cavs to cough up the ball 22 times.
TURNING POINT: The Cavs had trimmed a 22-point deficit down to 2 midway through the third quarter when Stoudemire picked up a loose ball under the basket and converted it for a four-point lead. He followed that by blocking Alonzo Gee's shot at the other end, and the Cavs had turnovers on two of their next three possessions. An emphatic slam by Bill Walker off a nice feed from Anthony Carter made it 101-90 with 8:50 left in the fourth, and a turnover by Cleveland on the next possession turned into a nifty reverse layup by Carter for a 13-point lead.
SLUMPING FIELDS: Landry Fields missed a breakaway dunk in the first quarter, as sure a sign as anything that the rookie with the 39-inch vertical leap (that's what he had last June, anyway) has hit the dreaded rookie wall. Actually, he hit it quite some time ago, and coach Mike D'Antoni now acknowledges Fields is suffering from a crisis of confidence. Fields played just 20 minutes in this one and shot 1-for-6 with three steals and three turnovers.
WHAT'S NEXT: The Knicks' four-game homestand concludes with a visit Tuesday night from the Toronto Raptors before they begin a three-game road "trip" with games at Philadelphia, New Jersey and Indiana. Despite the playoff berth now being secured, do not look for D'Antoni to cut his main players' minutes by too much. He is still trying to develop some chemistry and come continuity for a Knicks team that now has won three straight games.