Not even New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith’s NBA-record 22 attempts from behind the arc can save the Miami Heat from further falling in the Eastern Conference team standings.
With Carmelo Anthony obviously playing through an injury, the league’s ultimate chucker tried to save New York from the jaws of defeat but his chucking effort wasn’t enough as the Knicks fell to the defending champions Miami Heat, 102-91 on Sunday.
Smith finished with 32 points on 10-of-22 shooting from the three-point line while Anthony missed 14-of-17 shots to end up with only 13 points.
A few hours later, the Atlanta Hawk showed the Knicks how it’s done on the road. Atlanta started like a house on fire against the Indiana Pacers to lead 33-11 after the opening quarter. They never let up and got the crucial 107-88 victory that pushed them 2 games ahead of New York for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
Four players scored in double-figures for the Hawks including Paul Millsap (17 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocked shots), Jeff Teague (25 points) and Pero Antic (18 points).
Battle for the East’s 8th Spot
8. Atlanta Hawks (34-42) 9. New York Knicks (33-45) 10. Cleveland Cavaliers (31-47)
Atlanta Hawks (4 home, 2 away) - DET, BOS, @BKN, MIA, CHA, @MIL New York Knicks (2 home, 2 away) - @TOR, CHI, @BKN, TOR Cleveland Cavaliers (3 home, 1 away) - DET, @MIL, BOS, BKN
The Cavaliers can still make it to the postseason but need major help from the Hawks and Knicks. Another loss for Cleveland will eliminate them from contention so even Kyrie Irving’s surprise return can’t save their season.
Meanwhile, the Hawks-Knicks battle will most likely be decided by how Atlanta finishes the season. It’s practically out of the control of New York now as they have fewer games (4) than the Hawks (6).
Just to be sure, Millsap and crew need to get to 38 wins to avoid tiebreak complications. With games against lotto-bound teams Detroit, Boston and Milwaukee still on deck, it appears Atlanta will get the last ticket in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.