The playoff fates of NBA teams aren’t normally determined by a single nonconference game.
But whether or not the New York Knicks and San Antonio Spurs advance to the play-in tournament — or beyond — could be determined Monday night, when the Knicks are slated to host the Spurs in the final meeting of the season between the teams.
Both teams are coming off road losses that further weakened their grips on 10th place — and the final berth to the play-in tournament — in their respective conferences. The Knicks fell to the Boston Celtics 99-75 on Saturday while the Spurs will be completing a back-to-back set after losing to the Brooklyn Nets, 121-119, in overtime on Sunday afternoon.
The 75 points scored set a season low for the Knicks, who were routed just two days after they stormed back from a 25-point deficit — their biggest comeback in more than 17 years — to stun the Celtics 108-105. The loss Saturday dropped New York back into a tie with Boston for 10th place in the Eastern Conference.
The home-and-home split with the Celtics also continued a lengthy pattern of inconsistency for the Knicks, who are 14-20 since opening the season 5-1. New York has won consecutive games just twice in that span, though both instances — a three-game winning streak and a two-game run — have come amid a 5-3 stretch that began on Christmas Day.
“To win on the road, you have to play for 48 minutes,” Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said after New York fell to 10-10 away from Madison Square Garden. “And we didn’t do that.”
The road has been unkind lately to the Spurs, who are 1-5 on a seven-game road trip that is scheduled to conclude Monday night. San Antonio earned its lone win on the trek last Wednesday, when it hung on for a 99-97 win over the Celtics after Jaylen Brown missed a layup just before the buzzer.
The Spurs almost earned a second win in resourceful fashion Sunday, when they outscored the Nets 10-0 over the final 4:01 of the fourth quarter and had the ball with a chance to win the game at the buzzer. But Keita Bates-Diop couldn’t convert a tap-in alley-oop in the final second of regulation.
In overtime, the Spurs went scoreless on six possessions with the game tied. They couldn’t get a shot off after Kevin Durant fed Cam Thomas for the Nets’ tie-breaking basket in the lane with 1.4 seconds remaining in the extra session.
“If you wish and could make your wish come true, you don’t want (Durant) shooting the last shot, that’s for sure,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said afterward. “But we let (Thomas) go middle.”
The loss dropped the Spurs to 15-24 and officially left them tied for 10th place in the Western Conference with the Portland Trail Blazers.
–Field Level Media