With the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed wrapped up, the New York Knicks have nothing of consequence to accomplish until the postseason.
They may be treating Monday’s visit to Charlotte like it’s the preseason.
Carmelo Anthony is expected to rest, and he won’t be the only Knick getting a breather as New York looks for a sixth straight win over the league-worst Bobcats.
The Knicks (53-27) clinched the East’s second spot Sunday with a win over the team right behind them, forcing 26 turnovers and beating Indiana 90-80 to set up a playoff series with seventh-seeded Boston.
“I always said today was a real important game for us to come in and lock down (the No. 2 seed),” said Anthony, who had a game-high 25 points but didn’t play in the fourth quarter after bruising his left shoulder in the third. “It was a big game for us so now guys can get their rest, I can get my rest and come back full speed ready for the playoffs.”
Anthony almost certainly won’t play Monday and could also sit out Wednesday’s home finale against Atlanta, and not taking the court again would essentially give him the scoring title. He’s averaging 28.656 points while Kevin Durant is at 28.137.
Assuming Durant plays the final two games and Anthony sits, Oklahoma City’s star would need to total 99 points against Sacramento and Milwaukee to win his fourth straight scoring title.
With nearly every big man on the roster ailing, the Knicks started recently signed Solomon Jones at center on Sunday after starting Chris Copeland the previous two games. Martin and Chandler won’t travel to Charlotte and Camby also likely won’t play, but Wallace could return to get some minutes either Monday or Wednesday.
“We gotta get some healthy bodies back. And then we’ll have Thursday and Friday to prepare for the playoffs,” coach Mike Woodson said. “As coaches, we’ll start our preparation when we get back from Charlotte and once we get some healthy bodies back on Thursday, we’ll start practicing and see where we are and who can be in the rotation once we start the playoffs.”
Charlotte (19-61) certainly won’t mind seeing a Knicks team that’s less-than-invested in Monday’s contest. The Bobcats have lost the series’ last five games by an average of 13.6 points, and trailed by as many as 30 at Madison Square Garden on March 29 in a 111-102 loss.
The Bobcats have lost 14 straight and 21 of 22 on the road, but they’re playing well at home toward season’s end. Charlotte beat Milwaukee 95-85 on Saturday for its sixth win in eight games at Time Warner Cable Arena.
“It’s been a tough season for all of us in this locker room,” said center Bismack Biyombo who had 13 points and 17 rebounds. “We come in every day and we work hard. The season isn’t going as expected, but over time things are getting better. It’s a long way to go. But we’re young and we have a bright future ahead of us here.”
Perhaps Biyombo and Josh McRoberts can take advantage of the Knicks’ interior absences. McRoberts had 18 points, nine assists and nine boards Saturday.
Guard Gerald Henderson tied a career high with 35 points in last month’s trip to New York.