NEW YORK -- The New York Knicks won what was essentially a glorified scrimmage when they knocked off the Atlanta Hawks, 98-92, in the regular-season finale on Wednesday.
Most of each team's main stars were missing from the contest, as neither squad really needed the game to improve its seeding in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire sat out the game for the Knicks.
New York raced out to a 25-16 lead after the first quarter as non-descript players such as Pablo Prigioni and recently signed big man Earl Barron got the start for the Knicks (54-28). Meanwhile, the Hawks trotted out such stalwarts like Mike Scott, John Jenkins, and Shelvin Mack. A win for the No. 6-seeded Hawks would've likely boosted their playoff position, and that could have meant a second-round playoff series against No. 1 Miami. So it was obvious from the start that Hawks' head coach Larry Drew wasn't yearning to start his star big men Josh Smith and Al Horford.
Role players Prigioni, Barron, and Chris Copeland took advantage of the extended playing time, however, as they performed way above their normal means.
Prigioni, who sprained his ankle in the waning moments of the first quarter, finished with eight points, five rebounds, three assists, and a steal in the first quarter before bowing out for good. X-rays on the ankle were negative.
Knicks' head coach Mike Woodson said there was "absolutely" no reason to believe that Prigioni wouldn't be ready for the Boston Celtics, on Saturday night, but also acknowledged the ailments that plagued his already undermanned squad.
The Knicks played just six players after Prigioni left for good.
"Tough game tonight. Iman [Shumpert] was mainly cramps. Cope's [Chris Copeland] fine, although he had a helluva game. He'll sleep good off of that tonight," said Woodson. "Pablo could be day-to-day, but I have no reason to believe he won't be available [Saturday night]. Earl Baron and Q [Quentin Richardson] were also just cramping up, but that's more because they haven't played much. ... But overall, it was a good win and good effort all the way 'til the end."
Barron, serving his second stint with the Knicks, tallied 11 points and a game-high 18 rebounds - including 11 boards in the first half -- while Copeland added a career-high 33 points.
The performance by the journeyman Barron was especially impressive as he was added to the roster just hours before tip-off. Copeland, meanwhile, became the first Knicks' rookie since Bill Cartwright in 1980 to produce back-to-back 30-point games.
Copeland banged his shoulder late in the game, but said he'll be fine, adding that the career scoring night is a great way to ease his pain.
"I'm just trying to be aggressive. That's what coach [Woodson] wanted us out there to do, so I was just taking advantage of it all," said Copeland, who added he's tired after logging 41 minutes. "Guys were tired out there. It was a lot of minutes for just six players, but we got the win, kept fighting, and it was a great way to end the season."
Woodson also sounded particularly proud of the way his players battled - particularly Copeland, who has matured over the season.
"He's been a real pleasant surprise. Dating back to the summer, we didn't even know if he'd make the ball club. He just patiently sat and waited his turn. He's gotten better, [because] the veterans around him have helped him, too," said Woodson, quickly adding there's still room to improve. "We knew he could score, but just not this. But, that being said, we still need him to think more about the other end [defense], though."
The Hawks (44-38) were led by Jenkins, who had 20 points, including 12 points in the first half, and Scott, who also added 20 points, as the grueling regular season has finally ended for both teams.
NOTES: After being rested along with J.R. Smith Tuesday against Charlotte, Anthony was inactive on Fan Appreciation Night. Chandler and Stoudemire also were inactive and Kenyon Martin did not dress because of a sprained left ankle. ... Anthony won the NBA's scoring title with 28.7 points per game. He dethroned three-time defending scoring leader Kevin Durant, who sat out the Thunder's regular-season finale Wednesday. Durant (28.1 average) would've needed to score 70 points against the Milwaukee Bucks to overtake Anthony. Anthony is the first scoring champion for the Knicks since Bernard King averaged 32.9 points in 1984-85. Like Anthony, King played fewer games than his primary competition in claiming the points title. King played 55 games; Anthony played in 67. Woodson said he's proud of his MVP candidate: "He's put a lot of time into this, since the Olympics' experience all the way through this season. He never missed much of practices or the veteran camps and has been solid all across the board for this team. He's the reason why we're in this position we are today." ... Atlanta rested multiple starters for the second consecutive game, including forward Horford with a chest strain. "We're going to err on the side of caution," Drew said. ... The Knicks signed Quentin Richardson Tuesday and made another roster move Wednesday, signing center Barron. Barron played for the Knicks in 2010-11. He replaces Rasheed Wallace, who announced his retirement Wednesday morning. ... Even James White, who entered the game averaging just seven minutes per game, contributed 20 points (8-of-15 shooting) in 44 minutes of action.