Dahntay Jones and the Hawks will open the 2013 NBA playoffs Sunday afternoon against the Pacers at 1 p.m. on TNT.
NEW YORK — The New York Knicks won what was essentially a glorified scrimmage when they knocked off the Atlanta Hawks, 98-92, in the regular-season finale Wednesday.
Most of each team’s main stars were missing from the contest, as neither squad really needed the game to improve its seeding in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire sat out the game for the Knicks.
New York raced out to a 25-16 lead after the first quarter as nondescript players such as Pablo Prigioni and recently signed big man Earl Barron got the start for the Knicks (54-28). Meanwhile, the Hawks trotted out such stalwarts like Mike Scott, John Jenkins and Shelvin Mack. A win for the No. 6-seeded Hawks would’ve likely boosted their playoff position, and that could have meant a second-round playoff series against No. 1 Miami. So it was obvious from the start that Hawks’ head coach Larry Drew wasn’t yearning to start his star big men Josh Smith and Al Horford.
Game 1 of Atlanta’s series against Indiana is Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis at 1 p.m. The game can be seen on TNT.
LAKERS IN — MINUS KOBE: The coveted spot in the playoffs arrived at the Lakers’ doorstep even before they took the court against the Houston Rockets late Wednesday, courtesy of the Memphis Grizzlies’ win against the Utah Jazz 2,000 miles away.
Getting a more advantageous first-round opponent was up to the Lakers, though.
Both the Lakers and Rockets were looking to claim the seventh seed in the Western Conference, with the seventh seed earning a date with the San Antonio Spurs rather than the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In that sense, Wednesday was a playoff game of sorts wrapped up in a regular-season finale.
The little game of dodge ball favored the Rockets for most of the night, but in a late push the Lakers nudged ahead only to be caught by Chandler Parsons and his buzzer-beating three-pointer to send it to overtime.
Once there, the Lakers defense took over, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jodie Meeks did just enough offensively and the Lakers prevailed, 99-95, at sold out Staples Center. The Lakers move on without their leading scorer Kobe Bryant, who tore his Achilles last week and is out for the year.
The Lakers will open the playoffs against the San Antonio on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. on ABC, while the Rockets get the Thunder in Game 1 on Sunday night at 9:30 p.m. on TNT.
Lakers guard Steve Nash, who missed his eighth consecutive game with hamstring and hip issues Wednesday, is hoping to return for the playoffs. Nash has increased his workload, and went through a pregame workout with assistant coaches Wednesday.
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said Nash is closing in on a return. “He’s close,” D’Antoni said. “He looked pretty good today. That’s without me talking to him, but I watched him. You can see his mood. He’s happier. I can read him. But we’re a ways away. Let’s try to get into the playoffs first. Then we’ll figure him out.”
The Rockets seemed assured of the seventh seed two weeks ago, but a tailspin in which they’ve lost three of five games, including a stunning 119-112 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Monday, opened the door for the Lakers to overtake them. As a result, they could not afford to rest key players on the final day of the season, needing to beat the Lakers to hold onto the seventh spot and a date with the Spurs