Hawks-Knicks Preview

The Associated Press

The Atlanta Hawks are going to need some help now if they want to return to the New York area sometime this weekend.

The New York Knicks could see some of their regulars back in action in their final tuneup before the postseason.

The Hawks still have a chance to gain the Eastern Conference's No. 5 seed, but must end the Knicks' nine-game home win streak Wednesday night to keep alive those hopes.

Atlanta (44-37) needed to win its final two games to earn the fifth seed and a first-round matchup with Brooklyn, but fell 113-96 at home to Toronto on Tuesday.

Coach Larry Drew did not extend any of his players, with every starter logging fewer than 22 minutes and no player reaching 28. Center Al Horford sat out because of soreness in his chest, and his status for Wednesday is not known.

"I'm going to err on the side of caution," Drew said.

The Hawks now must defeat New York (53-28) and hope Chicago loses at home to Washington to gain the No. 5 seed. If that does not happen, Atlanta will be sixth and face Indiana. The Hawks split their four games with the Pacers, with each team winning at home, and split their four with the Nets.

It's unclear how the Knicks will approach this contest since they have clinched the No. 2 seed and face Boston in the first round.

Coach Mike Woodson rested NBA scoring leader Carmelo Anthony as well as Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith for Monday's meaningless 106-95 loss at Charlotte. Tyson Chandler was also out with a bulging disc while Kenyon Martin sat out with a sprained left ankle, as Woodson used just seven players.

Woodson seemed to indicate some of those players could see action against the Hawks.

"If 'Melo and those guys want to sit out Wednesday, then that's on them, but I'm thinking that they're probably going to play," Woodson said.

The Knicks' official game notes, however, listed Anthony as out Wednesday with a sore left shoulder. Chandler and Martin are also out.

Anthony is averaging 28.7 points while Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant is at 28.1 in the race for the scoring title.

With nothing on the line Monday, Woodson gave Steve Novak his first career start as a Knick. Undrafted rookie Chris Copeland scored a season-high 32 points.

"So it's a game that the guys we started got an opportunity to play a lot of minutes to get ready for the Atlanta game on Wednesday and then we'll get ready for the Boston series starting probably Saturday," Woodson said.

The uncertainty surrounding the Hawks' playoff seed mirrors a franchise set for major change after 2012-13. Drew, top scorer Josh Smith and numerous other Atlanta players are in the final years of their contracts, and Tuesday's listless effort in the home finale was noticeable.

"We came out a little soft, and played as if we were just winding it down," Drew said.

The Knicks are 2-0 against the Hawks as they try to sweep the season series for the first time since going 3-0 in 2003-04.

One player who won't see the court for the Knicks is veteran forward Rasheed Wallace, who retired again from the NBA on Wednesday after he was unable to recover from a left foot injury. Wallace hadn't played since December before returning Monday against Charlotte, then exited after 4 minutes because of continued soreness.

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