Knicks-Bobcats Preview


The New York Knicks don't seem overly concerned about where they start their postseason regardless of the outcome of their regular-season finale.

The Charlotte Bobcats, however, have plenty of incentive to win Thursday night to avoid capping an utterly miserable and potentially record-setting season of futility.

For the Knicks (35-30), a victory would ensure them the No. 7 seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs that would allow them to avoid Chicago in the first round. New York would also open the postseason at Miami win or lose if Philadelphia loses at Detroit on Thursday night.

''Right now it really doesn't matter,'' Knicks star Carmelo Anthony said. ''Whoever we play, we'll have to start on the road anyway, so we just want to start just preparing for whether it's Chicago, whether it's Miami, just get ready to go.''

Coach Mike Woodson's team put itself in position to clinch the seventh spot with a 99-93 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night. The Knicks made things far too interesting in the second half by nearly blowing an 18-point lead as Anthony looked on from the bench, but JR Smith hit a key jumper in the final minute to secure their eighth win in 12 games.

''Chicago has had the best record in the league the last two years, so why does everybody jump ahead and say, 'Oh, you should dodge Miami and play Chicago?'' center Tyson Chandler said. ''I think both of those teams are 1 and 2, so you can pick your poison on them. I feel like we have to believe in ourselves enough that it doesn't matter who we play.''

While the Knicks are playoff-bound, the postseason seems light years away for woeful Bobcats (7-58), who have dropped 22 straight. They need a victory to avoid setting an NBA mark for the lowest single-season winning percentage, since a loss would drop them below the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers squad that finished 9-73 for a .110 percentage.

''Nobody in here is used to losing like we have lost this year,'' swingman Gerald Henderson said after Wednesday night's 102-95 defeat at Orlando. ''It just kind of humbles you and teaches you a lot about what it takes to be successful in this game. It also teaches you what it takes to have a good team in the NBA. It's a learning process and hopefully we will come out with a win tomorrow.''

A win would also allow the Bobcats to avoid next season with the harsh spotlight that would come with being close to Cleveland's NBA-record 26-game losing streak set in the 2010-11 season. If Charlotte loses this game, its 23-game skid would be the longest to end a season in NBA history, surpassing a 19-game run of futility by the Cavaliers to close the 1981-82 campaign.

If there were any positives to glean from Wednesday's loss, the seven-point margin of defeat marked the eighth single-digit loss during this franchise-record run of misery. Thirteen of the losses have come at home, where the Bobcats have been outscored by 17.1 points per game - averaging 83.8 points on 39.4 percent shooting.

Despite Charlotte's season-long struggles, one of its seven victories came in stunning fashion at New York on Jan. 4, when everything broke right offensively in a 118-110 win. Henderson scored 24 points and Boris Diaw had a season-high 27 as the Bobcats shot 55.3 percent - far and away their season best.

That was just one of four occasions this season when Charlotte shot 50 percent or better. The Knicks, though, clamped down defensively in the most recent meeting - a 111-78 rout Jan. 24 at Charlotte as Chandler had 20 points and 17 rebounds and the Knicks limited the Bobcats to 32.9 percent shooting.

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