The only way last night's game between the Knicks and the Clippers wasn't going to be unusual would have been if the Bobcats, in a game that started an hour earlier, had beaten the Magic. That would have kept the Knicks alive for a No. 6 seed and surely inspired coach Mike Woodson to push hard in the fourth quarter for a Knicks victory. Alas, the Bobcats lost their 22nd in a row — 22 losses! — and locked the Magic into a No. 6 seed they absolutely do not deserve. (The Magic might not be among the top 25 teams in the NBA right now, not without Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson.) Which meant the Knicks looked more likely to play the Heat than the Bulls or Pacers in the first round ... unless they lost last night. So they sorta tried. And they failed. They won.
Coach Mike Woodson, once he saw that the Magic had won, rested Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire for the entire fourth quarter, and even kept Tyson Chandler out for a while. He was officially "resting" everybody, but the Knicks, while not being public about preferring to play the Bulls than the Heat, certainly made it clear with their fourth-quarter substitution patterns. (They disagree with us on this, and we figure they probably know better.) But doggone it if the Knicks didn't go ahead and win anyway, thanks in large part to some nice late-game shootin' from J.R. Smith and the Clippers not looking particularly inspired themselves without Chris Paul. So, great win! But now you get the Heat.
This is all another reason the loss to the Cavaliers last Friday is so frustrating now. Had the Knicks not lost that game — one that Woodson admitted his guys weren't up for, after clinching a playoff spot the night before — they'd be in a perfect position to clinch the No. 6 seed tonight and play the Indiana Pacers. Instead, they're looking at the scary Miami Heat.
Not that the Knicks will be trying all that hard to win tonight either. They'll play the Bulls if they lose to the Bobcats and the 76ers beat the Pistons. But as much as the Knicks will try — Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Baron Davis are all likely to sit, and you shouldn't expect to see much Tyson Chandler — it's still gonna be tough to lose to a team that has lost 22 in a row. And even if they do lose, the 76ers don't want to play the Heat; don't be surprised for them to play their D-League team tonight against Detroit as well.
In other words: It's gonna be the Heat, with the first game probably starting Saturday. So rest up tonight, Knicks. You're going to need it.