Advertisement

Knicks secure East’s No. 2 seed with overtime win over Bulls

What better way to end the regular season than to treat the season finale like Game 7 of a playoff series?

While all other Eastern Conference games on the last day of the calendar resulted in blowout decisions, a Chicago Bulls team with nothing to gain and a Knicks team with something to lose needed an extra period to settle the score at Madison Square Garden early Sunday afternoon.

The Knicks came out victorious in overtime, 120-119, over the Bulls, showered by a chorus of applause from the fans for two distinct reasons.

With the win:

  • The Knicks secured the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed

  • And the Knicks secured their first 50-win season since Carmelo Anthony led the franchise in the 2012-13 season

Had the former No. 2-seeded Milwaukee Bucks defeated the No. 5 Orlando Magic on Sunday, the Bucks — who won the season series over the Knicks, 3-2 — would have tied the Knicks in the standings and held onto the No. 2 seed.

The Bucks, however, have been sitting two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (calf), and without The Greek Freak, Milwaukee ceded the No. 2 seed to New York with a 25-point loss to Orlando.

So No. 2 it is. The best finish to a season for the Knicks in over a decade.

Jalen Brunson recorded his seventh straight 30-point game and his 11th 40-point outing of the season with 40 points on 14-of-30 shooting and by going 11-of-12 shooting from the foul line. Donte DiVincenzo played all but 29 seconds out of 53 possible overtime minutes, and Brunson, OG Anunoby and Josh Hart each logged 40 or more minutes.

A ninth-seeded Bulls team expected to pull the plug at the half and protect their starters for the Play-In Tournament pulled an about face and trotted their best players back onto the floor, trailing by just three points coming out of the halftime break.

The Bulls outscored the Knicks, 35-26, in the third quarter and led by as many as eight points before the Knicks came storming back with a decisive fourth quarter to force the extra period of action.

Here’s how things shook out with the other playoff or Play-In Tournament-bound teams in the East on Sunday afternoon:

The No. 7-seed 76ers and No. 8 Heat will now compete in the Play-In Tournament’s seven-eight game. The winner will advance to play the Knicks in the first round.

And while the Knicks hold home-court advantage, the Sixers employ one of the league’s most dominant players in Embiid — and the Heat are the very team responsible for eliminating the Knicks in the second round last season.

The Heat are a team capable of shifting into playoff gear on a moment’s notice.

Now, it’s out of the Knicks’ hands. They’ve put themselves in the best possible position this season, having battled through injuries to attain the second-best seeding in their conference.

A chance to one-up last season’s finish awaits, and while Julius Randle (shoulder surgery) isn’t walking through the Madison Square Garden doors, the Knicks are forging forward with full belief in what they have.

Because so far, what they have had, as Tom Thibodeau has maintained, is more than enough to get the job done.