NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 17: Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks looks on against the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden on April 17, 2012 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
The Knicks and the Hawks battle Sunday as they fight to prepare and position themselves for next week's Eastern Conference playoffs.
The New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks have clinched berths in the playoffs, but neither team's seed is set in stone. In the Eastern Conference with two clear-cut favorites for a meeting in the conference finals (the Bulls and Heat), playoff seeding is paramount.
The Knicks are currently sitting as the conference's seventh seed, but they have the same record as their division rival, the Philadelphia 76ers. Including Sunday's clash with the Hawks, the Knicks have three games remaining to decide which team they'd rather face, the Heat or the Bulls.
The Hawks currently have the fourth-best record in the league, but they're 2.5 games behind the Pacers to move up a seed, so they're looking to beat the Knicks to ensure they stay ahead of the Boston Celtics, over whom they have a 1.5-game lead, for home-court advantage in the first round.
Finally, the Knicks, and certainly their fans, have to be a little concerned about the play of Carmelo Anthony in their last game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Anthony had been on one of the greatest rolls of his career, and in Amar'e Stoudemire's first game back, Melo scored just 12 points, took 13 shots and, most concerning, just one free throw. He was more passive and it resulted in a loss to a bad team.
Stoudemire must play for the Knicks to have a shot at a first-round upset, but the next three games, starting with Sunday, will be crucial to finding a rhythm, much like the Bulls with Derrick Rose.