While the New York Knicks kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a crucial win their last time out, it ended up a case of too little, too late.
The Knicks will take the court Sunday night against the surging Chicago Bulls with their playoff hopes already dashed.
New York (34-45) had dropped back-to-back games to Washington and Miami before pulling out a 108-100 victory at Toronto on Friday. Carmelo Anthony scored 30 points while playing through a shoulder injury and Amare Stoudemire added a season-high 24 to go with 11 rebounds.
The Knicks were officially eliminated from contention Saturday when Atlanta clinched the final playoff berth with a 98-85 win over Miami.
"We can’t get mad at Atlanta, we can’t get mad at anybody but ourselves," New York’s J.R. Smith said. "We dug this grave, we have to lie in it."
The Knicks now turn their attention to the playoff-bound Bulls (47-32), who have allowed an average of 89.6 points during a season-best seven-game winning streak.
Chicago moved one game ahead of Toronto for the East’s No. 3 seed by storming back to beat Detroit 106-98 on Friday. The Bulls have already clinched home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
"Right now, we’re just focused on basketball and making plays for each other, moving forward and getting better," said forward Taj Gibson, whose team trailed by as many as 18 in the third quarter. "That’s the only thing we’re focused on right now. Everything that’s gonna come with success is gonna come. But right now, we remember how nobody was on our bandwagon at the beginning of the year, how that felt."
D.J. Augustin led six Bulls in double figures with 24 points off the bench and Joakim Noah recorded 12 rebounds and 10 assists, giving him double-digit assists in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.
Noah has a team-leading 408 assists and joins Kevin Garnett, Sam Lacey, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Alex English, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Alvan Adams and Dwyane Wade as the only players in history with 400 points and 100 blocks in a season.
Chicago hosts Orlando on Monday before visiting Charlotte for Wednesday’s regular-season finale.
"We’re just trying to finish strong," Augustin, averaging 21.4 points in five games this month, told the team’s official website. "We don’t want to go into the playoffs playing terrible or making mistakes, not focusing. That’s the main thing we are trying to do every game, focus down the stretch and play hard."
Chicago is 19-3 overall and 11-1 on the road when Augustin scores at least 18.
The Bulls have taken 10 of 12 from New York, including a 109-90 victory in the last matchup March 2. Augustin scored 23 while Noah added 13, a career-high 14 assists and 12 boards.