NEW YORK – JR Smith scored 21 points, including a rally-stopping jumper with 31 seconds left, and the New York Knicks held on to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 99-93 on Wednesday night and close in on the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Carmelo Anthony scored 17 points for the Knicks, but he was on the bench in the final minutes as the Knicks blew nearly all of an 18-point lead against a Clippers team that was fighting desperately for home-court advantage in the first round.
The Knicks will draw No. 2 seed Miami in the first round with one more win or a loss by Philadelphia. New York closes its regular season Thursday at Charlotte, which has one of the worst records in NBA history, while the 76ers visit Detroit.
If New York loses and Philadelphia wins, the Knicks would fall to the No. 8 seed and open against Chicago.
Blake Griffin had 29 points and 10 rebounds, and Randy Foye scored 28 points for the Clippers, who played without Chris Paul and fell a half-game behind Memphis for fourth place in the West. The Clippers need the Grizzlies to lose at home to Orlando on Thursday to have the home-court advantage for their first-round series.
Paul sat out after mildly straining his left groin in Tuesday's 109-102 loss at Atlanta. The Clippers dropped three of their final four games, costing themselves any chance to beat out the Lakers for the Pacific Division title and perhaps a chance to open the playoffs at home.
But they wrapped up their first season with Paul at 40-26 and will make their first postseason appearance since 2006 and just their fifth since 1985.
The Knicks lost their slim chance of earning the No. 6 seed and avoiding the Bulls or Heat when Orlando beat Charlotte earlier Wednesday. The No. 7 spot is within their grasp — given the Bobcats (7-58) have lost 22 in a row.
But it was unclear if the Knicks wanted it while sitting their starters down the stretch.
The Knicks led throughout the second half, seemingly putting it away early in the fourth when they opened a 90-72 lead with 7:23 remaining as Smith threw an alley-oop pass to Landry Fields on the break. Fans began chanting "Beat the Heat!" but suddenly they almost couldn't beat the Clippers.
With Anthony and Amare Stoudemire sitting down the stretch, the Clippers stormed back and cut it to 94-93 on Griffin's basket with 52 seconds left.
Smith answered with a jumper, and after Foye's pass was broken up, Smith made two free throws to make it 98-93 with 23.5 seconds to go.
The Clippers finished 16-17 on the road, missing their first finish above .500 since moving to Los Angeles in 1984.
The Knicks led 24-19 after one then got a pair of 3-pointers from Steve Novak and two layups by Fields early in the second while extending the lead to 13. The Clippers cut it to one before New York pushed it back up to 48-39 at halftime.
Notes: Jeremy Lin, recovering from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, shot around on the side during the Knicks' morning practice, moving very slowly from side to side. The Knicks hope he could return if they reach the second round. ... General manager Glen Grunwald, who had the interim tag removed from his title Tuesday, said Mike Woodson is doing a "fantastic job" but wouldn't discuss his former college teammate's chances of remaining. "I think we need to stay focused on the moment. We're in the playoffs right now, we need to try and get a couple of wins here this week, and then do as well as we can," Grunwald said. "We need to stay focused on that."