Knicks Playing Season Finale Like It’s Game 7

The Knicks have been eliminated from the playoffs for about a month or so, but they’ll play in an elimination game on tonight.

David Fizdale took the last seven games of the regular season and told his team to treat it like a playoff series. So “Game 7” is against the Detroit Pistons at The Garden in a game the Pistons have to win to clinch the 8th seed in the East.

“We ain’t got too much to play for other than pride right now, so we don’t want to lay down,” Dennis Smith Jr. told MSG’s Rebecca Haarlow after last night’s win. “If we can ruin somebody else’s season, we’ll do it.”

Dennis Smith Jr. speaks with Rebecca Haarlow after scoring 25 points in the Knicks' 96-86 win over the Bulls.

If the Knicks find a way to win, it would give them a “series” win of the seven games. It started with the loss to the Heat on March 30 and continued to the April 1 win against the Bulls, which evened it at 1. Then came losses to the Magic and Rockets, which, as Fizdale noted, put the team down 3-1.

Consecutive wins over the Wizards and Bulls have suddenly evened this “series” at 3.

“Now we’ve won two in a row to get a Game 7 on our home court,” Fizdale said.

David Fizdale holds his post-game press conference after the Knicks' 96-86 win over the Bulls.

Fizdale raved about how the players stayed locked in despite the season winding down. At this point, on lottery-bound teams, most players blow off shoot-arounds and teams don’t really watch much film. But Fizdale said the Knicks spent a half-hour on film before the Bulls game and did an hour on the court for shoot-around.

“I’m really trying to train their minds to understand what you gotta do be a team that plays in the playoffs,” Fizdale said. “They really took the challenge and they really wanted to win this game.”

The last two wins have come against lottery teams that, like the Knicks, played mostly young players and G-League call-ups. The Pistons will have Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and the rest coming for a playoff berth. It will be a slightly different level of basketball.

Smith Jr. started despite his sore back because Mario Hezonja, the celebrated point-forward of the last three games, was a late scratch with an illness. Smith put up 25 points and 5 assists in 35 minutes.

NOTES

– The Knicks (17-64) reached the 17-win mark to avoid the infamy of owning the worst record in franchise history. Right now the 17 wins represents a tie for the lowest win total in team history, set by the 2014-15 team. The Knicks are already locked into the top slot in the NBA Draft Lottery, so fans don’t need to fret over these late season wins like years past.

Luke Kornet filled the boxscore with 12 points, 13 rebounds, 6 blocks and 4 assists in 38:46.

Mitchell Robinson had 17 rebounds and 3 blocks, which extended his streak of 2+ blocks to 29. He can finish with an even 30 straight games with 2+ block. It is already the second-longest streak by a rookie in NBA history, behind only Manute Bol (45 games).

Kevin Knox discusses what he plans on working on in the summer and talks about tomorrow's season finale against the Pistons The Garden.

Kevin Knox continues to improve his shooting percentage. He had 17 points and 10 rebounds and made 4 of 8 from three-point range. Over the last 15 games, he’s shooting over 40% from three.

[Watch the Knicks Season Finale Tonight at 7:30 PM on MSG & MSG GO]

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.