Knicks clinch best record in 16 years with win against Hawks

NEW YORK -- A patchwork lineup was good enough against an opponent that chose sitting over seeding.

Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and the rest of the New York Knicks will be back Saturday against a team that will bring its best.

Chris Copeland scored 33 points on a night that belonged to the benches, and the Knicks wrapped up their winningest season in 16 years by beating the Atlanta Hawks 98-92 on Wednesday.

With Anthony, the NBA scoring champion, and just about every important player on either side sitting, the Knicks finished 54-28, their most victories since going 57-25 in 1996-97.

"A good team effort," coach Mike Woodson said. "I thought they fought all the way to the end and were able to come out with a 'W' and now we have to get ready for Saturday."

New York is the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and will host the No. 7 Boston Celtics on Saturday afternoon.

"It's going to be a war. It's going be a battle every game," Knicks forward Iman Shumpert said. "We're just hoping to win our four games and keep moving."

Atlanta would have earned the No. 5 seed in the East with a victory and a Chicago loss but apparently had no interest, resting Josh Smith, Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Devin Harris and Kyle Korver.

The Bulls beat Washington anyway, and the Hawks settled for sixth and will face No. 3 Indiana in the first round.

"They are a good team and it is going to take a heck of an effort to beat them in a seven-game series," Hawks coach Larry Drew said.

Anthony finished with 28.7 points per game to end Kevin Durant's three-year run as scoring champion. Durant also sat out Wednesday and stayed at 28.1 per game, making Anthony the first Knicks player since newly elected Hall of Famer Bernard King in 1984-85 to lead the league.

J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd also sat, while Chandler and Kenyon Martin remained out with injuries, but are expected to be ready for the playoff opener.

But it was an otherwise bad day in a strong regular season for the Knicks, as Rasheed Wallace retired again earlier Wednesday because of continued pain in his left foot.

Sidelined since December, Wallace came back Monday against Charlotte but lasted just 4 minutes before pulling himself out.

He had quickly become a key contributor on the court and an important leader in the locker room after ending a two-year retirement to join the Knicks. He was at the game sitting behind the bench, and coach Mike Woodson said he hopes the 38-year-old forward will hang around.

Guard Pablo Prigioni, who had moved into the starting lineup late in the season, sprained his right ankle in the first quarter and didn't return. The Knicks said X-rays were negative and Woodson said he wasn't sure if Prigioni would be ready for Saturday's game.

Shumpert motioned to come out of the game immediately after throwing a lob pass on the fast break in the fourth quarter and remained on the bench for the rest of the game. His injury was just a cramp and he said afterward he was fine. Copeland hurt his shoulder but kept shooting through the pain, going 14 of 29 in his second straight 30-point performance.

James White scored 20 points for the Knicks and Shumpert had 18. Earl Barron, signed earlier Wednesday, finished with 11 points and 18 rebounds.

Mike Scott had 23 points and 14 rebounds for the Hawks, who lost their final two games. John Jenkins scored 20 points.

Game notes

Quentin Richardson, signed Tuesday by the Knicks, scored five points on 1-of-11 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds. ... New York swept the series for the first time since 2003-04 and has won the past four meetings. ... Referee Courtney Kirkland appeared to injure his left knee in the fourth quarter and had to be helped to the bench.