The playoff-bound New York Knicks travel to Charlotte to face the lowly Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena on Thursday night in the regular-season finale.
A New York win would keep the Knicks as a No. 7 seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs and would pin them against the No. 2-seeded Miami Heat. But if the Knicks lose and the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Detroit Pistons, the Knicks would take the No. 8 spot, which would mean a match up against the No. 1-seeded Chicago Bulls.
In four games against the Bulls, the Knicks won one game and lost three. In three games against the Heat, the Knicks lost all three, and by a margin of 10.7 points per game.
J.R. Smith is coming off a big game for New York with a 21-point performance on seven-of-13 shooting. Backcourt mate Iman Shumpert is probably due for a better effort, after recording only one double-digit scoring game in his last seven games.
The Knicks received some good news on Wednesday. Point guard Jeremy Lin was seen doing some light jogging and slow-paced basketball moves during practice.
Lin underwent surgery on Apr. 2 to fix a small chronic meniscal tear in his left knee. It's still unclear if he will be at full strength for the first round of the playoffs. It seems probable that he won't be available until the Eastern Conference Semi-finals, should the Knicks advance out of the first round.
The Bobcats, on the other hand, are simply playing for pride. The Michael Jordan-owned club have had a forgettable NBA season with a 7-58 record, and are 12 games behind the second-to-last Washington Wizards.
Charlotte will try to snap a 22-game losing streak against New York. Rookie Kemba Walker is coming off a poor shooting night against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, as the former UConn star converted just two-of-11 shots. D.J. Augustin was a lone bright spot for the Bobcats against Orlando, as the young point guard scored 23 points on eight-of-17 shooting.
The game can be watched live here: http://www.nba.com/leaguepass/?cid=nba_12_hphtml
PREDICTION: It is difficult to gauge the motivation level for the Knicks, who clearly have the more talented roster. The Bobcats will likely play hard because they want to end the season on a high note in front of their home fans, and the Knicks may want to take it easy to not risk injury and perhaps take their chances with a possible matchup with the Bulls over the Heat.
PREDICTED SCORE: Charlotte over New York, 111-99