While the Portland Trail Blazers are playing well as they move closer to gaining a playoff spot, they might have already clinched one had they played better against Eastern Conference opponents.
The Trail Blazers play their final game of the season against an Eastern foe Wednesday night when they try to avenge a loss earlier this season to the lowly New York Knicks.
Portland (45-29) has won three straight and 11 of 13 to cut its magic number for a postseason berth to two. The Trail Blazers are 3 1/2 games behind Northwest Division leader Utah and 2 1/2 behind second-place Denver.
“I don’t even know about the standings,” center Marcus Camby(notes) said. “I just know we haven’t clinched anything. We don’t have an X by our name. What we’ve been talking about around here is winning 50 ballgames. That’s the benchmark we’re trying to get to.”
That division race would be even tighter if not for Portland’s 16-13 record versus the East - the worst among the top eight teams in the West. That includes a 93-84 loss at New York (26-47) on Dec. 7 that ended Portland’s five-game win streak in the series.
The Knicks have not swept the season series since 1999-2000.
The Trail Blazers are clearly playing better now and enter after back-to-back wins on the road, 112-101 over New Orleans on Saturday and 92-87 over Oklahoma City on Sunday.
“We just scrapped,” Roy said. “It was one of those games where it wasn’t pretty, but it was kind of one of those situations where I felt it was kind of a playoff-type of game and it was good that we’ve been there before to get that experience.”
Camby had 11 points and 12 rebounds for his third straight double-double. He’s averaging 14.4 rebounds in his last five games.
Portland will have to avoid looking ahead to Thursday’s road game at Denver. The Trail Blazers have done a good job against bad teams, winning 11 straight against clubs with losing records.
New York is playing the middle contest of a five-game trip after falling 103-98 at Utah on Monday. The Knicks gave up 44 points in the first quarter, with the Jazz making 17 of 20 shots.
“All we could do was pray and hope that they started missing shots,” forward Al Harrington(notes) said. “We upped our intensity and they started missing shots and it allowed us to get back into the game.”
Camby was on the last Knicks team to win a playoff game in the 2000-01 season. He’s about to reach the playoffs for the sixth time since leaving New York in 2002 while the Knicks have reached the postseason once since then, getting swept by New Jersey in 2004.