Knicks have sights set on No. 4 seed vs. Celtics

NBA Basketball

A win by the New York Knicks in the mid-afternoon ensured Saturday night would be all right for scoreboard watching.

The Knicks’ hopes of finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference will still be alive Sunday afternoon, when they are scheduled to host the Boston Celtics in the season finale for both teams.

Each team earned a win Saturday afternoon, when the host Knicks squandered a 17-point third-quarter lead before beating the Charlotte Hornets 118-109 in overtime. The visiting Celtics assured themselves a .500 record by snapping a four-game losing streak with a 124-108 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Knicks (40-31) moved into a tie for fourth place in the East with the idle Atlanta Hawks. Entering Saturday night, the two teams were a half-game ahead of the Miami Heat (39-32), who lost to the surging Milwaukee Bucks and will visit the Detroit Pistons on Sunday. The Hawks are slated to close out their season Sunday by hosting the Houston Rockets.

With a win over the Celtics and one loss by the Heat, the Knicks will clinch the fourth seed in the East and home-court advantage. New York has the tiebreaker advantage over the Hawks by virtue of their 3-0 head-to-head record.

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said he’d be focused on the Celtics but acknowledged it would be almost impossible to not keep an eye on the scoreboard.

“We have a quick turnaround — we have to be ready for Boston,” Thibodeau said. “You can’t worry about the other teams. But it’s your business, so you’re aware of what’s going on.”

If the three teams finish tied, the Hawks would be the fourth seed, the Heat fifth and the Knicks sixth. Atlanta would win the head-to-head tiebreaker and the Southeast Division by virtue of its 2-1 head-to-head record against Miami, which would be fifth because it swept New York, which is headed to the playoffs for the first time since the spring of 2013.

The Celtics (36-35) will be hoping to build some much-needed momentum heading into next week’s play-in tournament. Boston has clinched seventh place in the Eastern Conference, which means it needs to win just once in the four-team event to advance to the playoffs for the seventh straight season, which would be the franchise’s longest run since a 14-season run from 1980 through 1993.

A win Sunday would give the Celtics consecutive victories for just the second time in the last four weeks. Boston won seven straight from April 7 through April 17 but is just 5-9 since then.

“We needed to feel good,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said Saturday. “I thought it was really important when we step on this plane today to feel a little bit better about the win with the right mentality.”

The Celtics enter Sunday as the only team in the East locked into its spot in the play-in tournament. The Hornets, Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards have all clinched a play-in bid but are each 33-38 heading into their Sunday finales.

–Field Level Media

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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