Can't lose: Sunday's game isn't a must-win for the Knicks in a traditional sense, but a loss would severely damage their chances of making the playoffs.
The Knicks' loss to Washington on Friday was crushing because it dropped New York one game behind the Atlanta Hawks in the race for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
The Knicks are two games behind the Hawks in the loss column, though, and Atlanta holds the tiebreaker based on conference record. A loss again Miami could drop the Knicks three back in the loss column with four games to play, giving them nearly no room for error.
As it is, the remaining schedule also favors the Hawks, who beat the Cleveland Cavaliers by 19 on Friday. Four of Atlanta’s final seven games are against opponents under .500.
All five of the Knicks' remaining opponents -- the Heat included -- are over .500.
If Atlanta wins three of its final seven games, New York would need to go 4-1 in its final five games to get into the playoffs. If the Hawks go 2-5 to finish the season, the Knicks would qualify for the postseason if they go 3-2.
Atlanta (33-42) plays at Indiana on Sunday evening.
"It's going to come down to the very end. Right now, we have five games left, and it's on us. It's on us," Carmelo Anthony said on Saturday.
Melo's shoulder: Anthony will play in pain on Sunday. He aggravated a right shoulder injury during Friday's loss to Washington. He said on Saturday his shoulder was stiff and that he had trouble lifting his arm.
That sounds like trouble for the Knicks, but it's worth noting that Anthony's been red-hot against the Heat of late. He's averaged 34.0 in his past seven regular-season games against the Heat and had 29 in the most recent matchup, Feb. 27 in Miami.
LeBron James, by the way, has only a slight edge over Anthony in the all-time head- to-head series between the two. He’s posted a 13-12 record (including playoffs) in matchups with Melo, per ESPN Stats & Information.
James has hurt the Knicks this season. Miami is 2-1 against New York and James has 30+ points in all three games. The last player to register four 30+ point games vs. New York in a single regular season was Michael Jordan in 1996-97 (4 times), per ESPN Stats & Information.
No Wade? It's unclear if Dwyane Wade (hamstring) will play Sunday. He's missed the past five games. Based on recent history, the Knicks would probably welcome the sight of Wade on the bench.
The shooting guard has averaged 22.7 points and 72.1 percent from the field in three games against New York, his best shooting percentage against any opponent.
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