Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Knicks Secure No. 7; Heat Up Next

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Knicks Secure No. 7; Heat Up Next

Article excerpt

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It was 13 years ago that the Knicks last made it to the NBA Finals, a season eerily like the one they finished up Thursday night as they secured the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs and a first-round match with the Miami Heat with a 104-84 win over the Bobcats.

Back then, with the season strike-shortened to 50 games, beset by injuries, the Knicks limped to the No. 8 seed and then became the first No. 8 to reach the NBA Finals. But on the final day of that season, coach Jeff Van Gundy walked into the locker room and sensed something wrong.

"I walked into the gym that morning and I could tell something was off," Van Gundy said. "I quickly found out that our players wanted to lose that game so we would play Miami in the first round instead of [the Indiana Pacers]. I tried to convince them just to play, that it didn't matter who we played.

"They were convinced we had a better shot of beating Miami. The odd part, we went out to win and we did win. But we still got Miami. It's just weird, like how all the teams are tanking to try to get somebody, to get away from somebody. I always felt it was bad karma."

It's a fitting remembrance since this season's incarnation of the Knicks has endured an up-and-down path through the lockout- shortened season. They have limped through injuries to key players, changed coaches in midstream and will enter the playoffs as the No. 7 seed thanks to the Sixers getting hammered at Detroit. That earned them a match with the Heat -- like in 1999, except that this time it seemed like no one wanted to face LeBron James and the rest of dream team.

The Knicks insisted they weren't trying to tank this one, even after putting together an exhibition-game type of lineup for the final game against the awful Bobcats. The Knicks rested many of their stars in the fourth quarter Wednesday, seeing an 18-point lead over the Clippers slip away until it was down to one before they managed to hang on. …

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