With just five games remaining in their regular season, the New York Knicks are on the verge of missing the playoffs for the second straight year.
New York looks to remain in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference when it hosts the Atlanta Hawks.
The Knicks had a chance to move within 2 1/2 games of eighth-place Milwaukee on Saturday, but fell 109-98 to the last-place Clippers in Los Angeles. The Bucks lost 117-115 in overtime at Chicago.
New York’s fourth defeat in six games left it 3 1/2 games behind Milwaukee, and the Knicks can be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss to the Hawks or a Bucks win over the Clippers on Wednesday.
“Every time we can really make up some ground, we just don’t do it,” Knicks guard Allan Houston said. “It’s frustrating. I mean, I can imagine the people who watch us and how frustrated they can be. The bottom line is that we didn’t do what was necessary, so we are in the position we’re in for a reason.”
The last time the Knicks missed the playoffs in two straight years was from 1985 to 1987—Hubie Brown’s last three seasons as coach.
“Considering how many close games we’ve lost, it’s disappointing that we’re not in,” Knicks forward Latrell Sprewell said. “We could easily be at 40-45 wins. But the bottom line is, we weren’t good enough in a lot of those games to finish down the stretch like we were supposed to. We just have to learn from it and do better next year.”
Atlanta beat the Memphis Grizzlies 97-91 on Saturday for its second straight win after a three-game losing streak. The Hawks were eliminated from playoff contention after Milwaukee beat Cleveland on Friday.
“Just pride,” Atlanta captain Shareef Abdur-Rahim said about his team’s motivation for the rest of the season. “Just pride. Just go out and do your job. That’s all you can do is go out and do your job.”
The Hawks have been without leading scorer Glenn Robinson for the past two games because of a left Achilles’ injury.
Knicks starting forward Othella Harrington has missed three straight contests with a sore right ankle.
STANDINGS: Hawks - 5th place, 16 GB, Central Division. Knicks - 6th place, 14 GB, Atlantic Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Hawks - Robinson, 21.0 ppg; Abdur-Rahim, 8.3 rpg; Terry, 7.4 apg. Knicks - Houston, 22.7 ppg; Thomas, 8.0 rpg; Eisley, 5.4 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Knicks, 2-1.
LAST MEETING: March 14; Hawks, 107-104. At Atlanta, the game featured seven lead changes in the final 3:25, and Robinson’s three-point play with 3 seconds left capped a frantic final minute.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hawks - 8-30 on the road; Knicks - 22-16 at home.
INJURIES: Hawks - F Robinson (Achilles’); F Chris Crawford (knee); G Emanual Davis (Achilles’); G-F DerMarr Johnson (back); C Nazr Mohammed (foot). Knicks - F Antonio McDyess (knee); G Lavor Postell (knee); F Mark Pope (back); F Harrington (ankle).