J.R. Smith had 22 points as the New York Knicks captured the No. 7 seed in the National Basketball Association’s Eastern Conference to earn a matchup with the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.
The Knicks, who beat the Charlotte Bobcats 104-84 last night, will open their best-of-seven playoff series tomorrow against the No. 2 Heat, who lost 104-70 to the Washington Wizards. The Knicks are 0-3 against the Heat this season.
The Heat have 2-1 odds to win the NBA title, according to R.J. Bell of Pregame.com. The Chicago Bulls are 4-1, followed by the Oklahoma City Thunder at 9-2 and San Antonio Spurs at 5-1. The Knicks are rated a 40-1 chance.
“We’ve just got to come mentally and physically ready to play 48 minutes,” Knicks interim coach Mike Woodson said. “We haven’t put 48-minute ballgames together against the Miami team.”
The top-seeded Bulls, who defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 107-75 last night, will play the No. 8 seed Philadelphia 76ers, who fell 108-86 to the Detroit Pistons.
In the other Eastern Conference playoff game tomorrow, the third-seeded Indiana Pacers will host the sixth-seeded Orlando Magic. The seventh-seeded Dallas Mavericks will travel to No. 2 Oklahoma City in tomorrow’s Western Conference game.
At Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, Amar’e Stoudemire scored 21 points and Josh Harrellson added 18 for the Knicks (36-30), who handed the Bobcats their 23rd consecutive loss.
The Bobcats (7-59), owned by five-time Most Valuable PlayerMichael Jordan, finished the season with a winning percentage of .106, the worst in NBA history. Charlotte eclipsed the record set by the 1972-73 76ers, who ended that season with a 9-73 (.110) record.
The Knicks played without Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Baron Davis, who were rested ahead of tomorrow’s contest against the Heat’s LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
“Three superstars, I call them,” Woodson said. “They have a nice supporting cast that has learned how to play with those guys. However you cut it, you have great teams you’re going to have to deal with and you’re going to have to win a game to flip the series and get it back in your favor.”
The fourth-seeded Boston Celtics begin their Eastern Conference series against the Atlanta Hawks on April 29. In the Western Conference, the top-seeded Spurs host No. 8 the Utah Jazz, the No. 3 Los Angeles Lakers are home against the sixth- seeded Denver Nuggets and the fifth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers travel to the fourth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies on April 29.
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