Originally posted on FOX Sports  |  Last updated 4/13/13
The New York Knicks have won 14 of their last 15 games despite a roster that's hardly healthy, so getting some rest heading into the playoffs would be a welcome opportunity. With a win Sunday, they can afford to do just that. The Knicks look to clinch the Eastern Conference's No. 2 seed when they host the Indiana Pacers in a preview of a potential second-round postseason clash. New York was a game behind Indiana in the race for the second spot on March 17 after suffering its fourth consecutive defeat, but Thursday's 118-111 overtime loss in Chicago is its only setback since. The Knicks (52-27) pulled three games ahead of the Pacers with Friday's 101-91 win at Cleveland coupled with Indiana's 117-109 home loss to Brooklyn, meaning New York can lock up the No. 2 seed Sunday. Even with a Pacers win - which would give them the season series 3-1 - the Knicks would need only one victory or one Indiana loss in the final two games to clinch. But New York would like to take care of business Sunday, and give Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith a breather prior to the playoffs after they've combined to average 57.2 points over the past 15 games. "It's very beneficial," Smith said of the chance to rest. "It means a lot. It's something we've been talking about consistently over the last few weeks, we've been wanting to lock up that two seed." Finishing second would earn the Knicks a first-round date with Boston, but a showdown with Indiana could be looming in the East semifinals. The home team has won each of the first three meetings in the season series. "We've proven this year we can win on the road, but it always helps to have home-court advantage," coach Mike Woodson said. "That goes a long way when you're trying to get to the Eastern Conference finals." Even when Woodson's team beat the Pacers 88-76 at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 18, Indiana caused problems for New York. The Knicks shot 36.7 percent in that game, and that was their most efficient performance against the Pacers this season. Indiana (49-30) held New York to 33.7 percent in a 125-91 win Feb. 20. The Knicks, who broke the NBA record for 3-pointers made in a season Thursday and average 10.8 per game, have gone 16 of 73 (21.9 percent) from beyond the arc against the Pacers. Anthony, who was suspended for an 81-76 loss in Indianapolis on Jan. 10, averaged 20.5 points and shot 37.2 percent in the two meetings he played. Smith was 11 of 36 in the two losses to the Pacers. Indiana didn't defend at anything close to that level against New York's other team Friday. Brooklyn shot 51.2 percent, becoming just the sixth team to crack the 50-percent mark this season against the Pacers. The Nets shot 65.1 percent in the first half, scoring 69 points. "Clearly, we've got to start games with a bigger sense of urgency than we have in the last four games," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "To win in the playoffs you have to play with a sense of urgency in all four quarters." Paul George has been held to 11.3 points per game on 29.2 percent shooting as Indiana has lost three of four, but he's averaged 23.7 points against New York. The Pacers have averaged 46.2 points in the paint in their last nine games - 6.2 above their season average - and David West and Roy Hibbert could have more success inside if Tyson Chandler (bulging disc) and Kenyon Martin (ankle) are out again. The Knicks have started the 6-foot-8 Chris Copeland at center the past two games. Chandler and Martin are questionable, while Raymond Felton should play despite a sprained knee.
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