Amid all the questions about Mike Woodson’s job status and Phil Jackson’s potential arrival, the New York Knicks appear to sneaking back into the Eastern Conference playoff chase.
They should be able to keep moving toward that goal against the Philadelphia 76ers, who haven’t won since January.
As the rumors continue to swirl, New York seeks its fourth straight victory while dealing the visiting 76ers their 17th consecutive loss Monday night.
Jackson, who hasn’t coached in the league since 2010-11, is reportedly close to joining the Knicks in a front office role. The 11-time champion has insisted that he holds no interest in returning to the bench, though his recent discussions with New York officials haven’t helped squash rumors about Woodson’s future in that role.
Even with Woodson’s job status seemingly shakier than ever, the Knicks (24-40) have responded with wins over Minnesota, Utah and Cleveland to get within 3 1/2 games of reeling Atlanta for the East’s final playoff spot.
"There’s no room for error," Woodson said. "We have to play each possession like it’s our last possession. The mental approach is a little different now. It’s been a tough season for all of us. Now, they’re playing for something."
Carmelo Anthony shook off a congested chest and an 0-for-6 start to finish with 26 points in a 107-97 win at Cleveland on Saturday.
Amare Stoudemire and J.R. Smith had 17 points apiece while Tyson Chandler added 15 and 11 boards for the Knicks, who have come to life after a seven-game losing streak had seemingly knocked them from the playoff race.
Stoudemire has scored 16.8 points per game in the last four, and Smith has hit 16 of 35 from 3-point range over that span.
After a four-game span in which they scored 90.0 per game on 39.4 percent shooting, the Knicks have averaged 111.0 points and hit 48.3 percent from the field.
"You can see something different over the last couple of games," Anthony said. "It seems like everyone has a sense of urgency right now. We’re playing for something. We control our own destiny. We want to win as many games as we can down the stretch."
New York, tied for 10th in the East, has a good chance to maintain its recent production against a Philadelphia team that has allowed an average of 114.7 points during a 16-game losing streak. It’s the longest since a franchise-worst 20 straight losses in 1972-73.
The 76ers (15-47) are coming off Saturday’s 104-92 home loss to a last-place Utah team which failed to top 91 points in its previous five games.
Tony Wroten was a bright spot with a career-high 30 points, but Rookie of the Year candidate Michael Carter-Williams scored a season-low four while missing 11 of 13 shots.
"I’m going to give that group the benefit of the doubt," said coach Brett Brown, whose club last won Jan. 29 at Boston. "We’re going to see this thing through."
Philadelphia’s James Anderson, who has 36 points over his last two games, has scored 35 on 16-of-24 shooting in a season series in which each team has won on the other’s home floor.
Stoudemire has averaged 21.0 points on 25-of-33 shooting in his last three meetings with the 76ers, though he sat out a 110-106 home loss Jan. 22 in the teams’ last matchup due to an ankle injury.