Commentary

Sixth sense says this could be fun

Knicks-Sixers game determines nothing, but the pursuit of No. 6 seed adds intrigue

Updated: April 6, 2011, 9:20 AM ET
By Ian Begley | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Nothing will be decided Wednesday night when the New York Knicks take on the Philadelphia 76ers. Neither team can lock down a specific playoff seed. Neither team will have a clearer idea of who it'll face in the first round of the playoffs.

But the Knicks' 78th game of the regular season is significant for other reasons.

It wasn't long ago that folks were wondering whether the Knicks would slip into the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. With a win Wednesday in Philly, they can take over sixth. They pulled within a half-game of the Sixers with Tuesday's 131-118 win over Toronto.

A win Wednesday will also give the Knicks their first five-game winning streak since mid-December.

[+] EnlargeCarmelo Anthony
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesCarmelo Anthony and the Knicks have their sights set on winning their fifth in a row.

"We want to go and get that game, keep this winning streak going [and] keep the momentum going," Carmelo Anthony said after scoring 23 points and pulling down nine boards against the Raptors.

The Knicks have lost two of three to Philly, but that was before Anthony was acquired in a blockbuster trade with Denver.

Anthony said Tuesday night that he's getting accustomed to playing with Amare Stoudemire. It showed against Toronto as both players finished with 23 points. Stoudemire had five assists and Anthony pulled down nine rebounds.

"I'm getting a better feel as each day goes by of where he likes the ball and what he likes to do," Anthony said.

Mike D'Antoni doesn't want the pursuit of the sixth seed to hinder the chemistry developing between Stoudemire and Anthony.

"Let's keep building what we've got. It's not the end of the world either way," D'Antoni said shortly after recording his 100th victory as Knicks coach.

Anthony agrees. He said Tuesday that he doesn't care if the Knicks finish sixth or seventh. Neither does Chauncey Billups.

"I don't think it really matters that much. ... We're going to play a tough, tough team either way. We'll be the underdog either way," Billups said.

Boston and Miami ended play Tuesday tied for second place in the East, so neither Philly nor New York will know much more about its first-round opponent after Wednesday night's game.

For what it's worth, the Knicks have a tougher schedule than the Sixers to close out the season.

After Wednesday's game, New York will go to New Jersey and Indiana before coming home to face Chicago next Tuesday. They close the season with a road contest at Boston.

Philadelphia will face Toronto, Orlando and Detroit at home to complete the regular season.

Any one of those remaining games could have a greater impact on playoff seeding than the Knicks-Sixers showdown in Philly on Wednesday.

So, no, nothing will be decided at the Wells Fargo Center.

Given that, Anthony doesn't want to make the Knicks' showdown in Philly into anything more than what it is: Game No. 78 of the regular season.

"We don't want to try to put too much pressure and go in there and say ... if we don't win that game it's the end all, be all," Anthony said.

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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