Knicks and Hawks tune up for playoffs
A pair of Eastern Conference teams tuning up for the playoffs meet in the Peach State on Sunday when the Atlanta Hawks play host to the New York Knicks.
The Hawks are currently the fifth seed in the East and are likely headed for a first round matchup with Boston while New York is deadlocked with Philadelphia for the seventh spot but has the tiebreaker over the 76ers with just three games to play.
Atlanta topped Boston in a possible playoff preview on Friday when Joe Johnson had 30 points, six assists and five rebounds, and Josh Smith added his 27th double-double of the season with 19 points and 12 boards as the Hawks handled the short- handed Celtics, 97-92.
Kirk Hinrich, Jason Collins and Willie Green tallied eight points apiece for Atlanta, which has won seven of its last nine games overall. The Celtics rested their four biggest starts, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, however.
"Minus who played or not, we know that they're a well coached basketball team. They play hard, we were able to come out and establish ourselves early. They made a run throughout the game, we definitely responded with runs of our own," Smith said.
The Hawks have a 1 1/2-game lead over fourth-seeded Boston for home- court advantage in the possible quarterfinals matchup.
The Knicks, meanwhile, welcomed Amare Stoudemire back to the lineup but fell in Cleveland on Friday, 98-90.
Stoudemire, who had missed 13 straight games with a bulging disk in his lower back, scored 15 points. Steve Novak also had 15 while Carmelo Anthony finished with 12 on 5-of-13 shooting.
"I'm not really concerned about the flow or anything, guys have to make adjustments," Anthony said of Stoudemire's return. "We're glad that he's back and as far as the offense goes, he can come right in and get back to where he left off."
The Hawks snapped a three-game skid to New York with a 100-90 win at Philips ARena back on March 30.