After clinching their first playoff berth since 2013, the Knicks move into playoff prep mode. With the Spurs traveling up to Madison Square Garden, the Knicks will have to balance proper rest and fighting for better playoff seeding.

After a tough loss to a LeBron James–less Los Angeles Lakers to end a six-game road trip, the New York Knicks (38-31) are returning home to close out the regular season. Even after the heartbreaking defeat, spirits are running high in New York. Thanks to the Boston Celtics and their loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, the Knicks officially clinched a playoff spot, their first since the 2012–13 campaign.

Returning home to Madison Square Garden, the Knicks will attempt to regroup after a 3-3 road trip and rest the players who have suffered injuries over the last week of the regular season and prepare for the playoffs. With just three games left on their schedule, the Knicks look to close out the season on a strong note, starting with a Thursday night matchup against Dejounte Murray and the San Antonio Spurs (33-36).

The Spurs are coming off of a 128-116 loss at the hand of the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday. Pretty much locked into the 10th seed, San Antonio has stumbled, losers of seven of their last eight games. Still, the Spurs have a two-game lead over Sacramento and New Orleans, with the latter without Zion Williamson for the remainder of the season.

Last time out

The two teams faced each other back on March 2nd, when the Spurs defeated the Knicks rather easily, 119-93. Julius Randle had an off night, finishing with just 14 points. Immanuel Quickley (26 points) and Frank Ntilikina (13 points) were bright spots, but not enough to pull the Knicks to victory.

Despite also dealing with injuries, San Antonio had a nicely balanced effort. Six players scored in double figures, and a total of 10 players chipped in at least eight points apiece.

The Spurs finished with 68 points in the second half, turning every New York error into a made basket. Murray finished with 17 points, six rebounds, and six assists, while Trey Lyles scored a team-high 18 points, pulled down five rebounds, and added two assists and steals to boot. As a team, San Antonio finished 18-of-42 from the outside, a staggering 42.9%.

New York hasn’t beaten San Antonio in more than two years, so maybe it’s due for one?

Playoff push

The Knicks have clinched a playoff spot, their first since 2013, and won’t have to deal with the anxiety of a single-elimination play-in game. Unfortunately, the Knicks going 3-3 during their road trip—plus some solid play from the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat as of late—closed the gap, and the no. 4 seed is up for grabs.

The Knicks are definitely going to need some help from Atlanta and Miami’s opponents but can boost themselves up by winning these next three games. The Knicks, Hawks, and Heat are all within a half-game of each other, with Atlanta now leading the trio.

The Hawks have two games left, one against the Orlando Magic on Thursday and another with the Houston Rockets on Sunday. Atlanta is undefeated against both of those tanking teams this season.

As for the Heat, their path to the finish line is much tougher. Miami plays the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday, a team it has yet to beat. Then, it heads to Milwaukee for a game with the Bucks. The Heat and Bucks split the regular-season series. They wrap up things with Detroit on Sunday, who they also split the regular-season series with.

Injury list

There are plenty of questions for Thursday’s game. Reggie Bullock (sprained right ankle), Alec Burks (contused left knee), Immanuel Quickley (sprained left) ankle, and Derrick Rose (sprained left ankle) are all listed as questionable, the team announced yesterday.

Although it’s unlikely the rest of the Knicks have another abysmal shooting night outside of Randle, players are going to have to step up if Rose is inactive or limited. In that loss to the Lakers, Rose was really the only other player to get anything going, providing a 27-point boost off the bench. Unfortunately, Randle and Rose didn’t get much help elsewhere, with all other teammates scoring nine or fewer points. The Knicks can’t afford a repeat.

Tip-off is scheduled for at 7:30 p.m. ET.

UPDATE: 1:44 p.m. ET.

Burks, Bullock, and Rose are probable, per the team.

UPDATE: 6:52 p.m. ET.

The Knicks announce Alec Burks, Reggie Bullock, and Immanuel Quickley are available on Thursday against the Spurs, but Derrick Rose (sprained left ankle) is out.


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