The New York Knicks remain alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race. At some point, however, they will have to string some wins together to secure a spot in the postseason.
The Knicks hope to end a four-game road losing streak when they face the Atlanta Hawks for the third and final time this season on Saturday night.
A 106-97 victory Friday over visiting Golden State pulled New York within two games of New Jersey for the final playoff spot in the East.
The Knicks have alternated wins and losses in their last 10 contests since winning back-to-back games against Orlando and the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 3-6. They have won a season-high three in a row twice this season, most recently from Jan. 3-10.
New York was without several regulars Friday, including guard Jamal Crawford, the team’s second-leading scorer at 17.9 points, who will miss the rest of the regular season after undergoing ankle surgery. Top rebounder David Lee sat out for the fifth time in six games with a sprained right ankle and reserve guard Nate Robinson did not play due to a stomach virus.
“Everybody’s got to step up and try to fill the void,” Richardson said. “We’re missing some key guys right now.”
Guard Steve Francis returned after missing four games with tendinitis in his right knee and had seven points and seven assists in 22 minutes.
The Knicks have struggled on the defensive end during their road skid, allowing 106.8 points per game. That has also been an issue for them at Atlanta, where they have surrendered 114.7 points during three consecutive losses there.
“We’re asking our guys to take a big leap to try to get into the playoffs,” Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said. “In order to get into the playoffs, we’re going to have to win some road games.”
Despite three players scoring at least 20 points, the Hawks (22-37) lost their fifth straight on the road, 93-92 Friday to Washington.
“We just could not squeeze it out,” Smith said. “We just could not get a good shot up in the last 2.8 seconds. We played hard and didn’t stop fighting, but we just could not come up with that last rebound that we needed.”
Atlanta likely will find itself out of the playoffs for the eighth straight season, and poor play at home is partly responsible. The Hawks have lost five of their last six at Philips Arena, where they are 10-17. Only Boston has fewer home wins with six.
These teams have split two meetings this season, each winning at home.