The eight Eastern Conference playoff teams are set, and the New York Knicks are not included.
That's a statement that most have been predicting with confidence for much of the season, but it took until April 12—the fifth-to-last day of the season—for it become official.
The Atlanta Hawks did the honors, knocking off the Miami Heat, 98-85, to lock up the eighth and final playoff spot in the East on Saturday night. Of course, it wasn't exactly a lose-on-purpose spiteful kind of move by the Heat, as they moved back into a tie with the Indiana Pacers atop the conference (Pacers own the tie-breaker) a day after claiming the No. 1 spot.
Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press summed it all up:
The Knicks have been eliminated. Indiana back atop East. Miami down to 2. And did we say the Knicks have been eliminated? They have been.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) April 13, 2014
New York simply dug itself into far too big of a hole. After a woeful month of February (2-11), the Knicks dropped to 21-40 on March 3, a record that would put them into tanking territory during most other campaigns.
In the weak East, though, Mike Woodson's squad was still alive and continued to fight, reeling off eight consecutive victories to climb back into contention. A 5-5 stretch over the last 10 was enough to keep them out, though, as the Hawks have won five of the last six.
As MSG Network's Alan Hahn and ESPN's Ian Begley noted, this marks the end of two different streaks:
And so a streak of three straight playoff appearances ends for the #Knicks tonight. Hawks beat the Heat to clinch the 8th spot in the East.— Alan Hahn (@alanhahn) April 13, 2014
For the first time in his 11 seasons in the NBA, Carmelo Anthony will not be in the playoffs. #Knicks— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) April 13, 2014
Moreover, there is a massive implication when it comes to what many see as a very stacked upcoming draft, per Bleacher Report's Howard Beck:
Knicks' elimination from playoff chase means Denver gets a lottery pick from NY as final payment in Carmelo trade.— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) April 13, 2014
Asterisk on the Knicks' pick: Denver will send lesser pick (their own or NY's) to Orlando. Nuggets get a high pick regardless.— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) April 13, 2014
That, of course, is just the icing on the cake for what has been a nightmare season for the Knicks, and there's nothing left to do now but look forward.
Much has been made of Woodson's role in New York's failures, and the coach spoke about that with New York Post reporter Mark Berman:
I could’ve been better as a coach. You can point the finger there as well. As a coach I take pride in what I do. I’ll never pass the buck on anybody. This season’s been tough for a lot of people. I take full responsibility.
New York has some bright young talent in Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr., but with Carmelo Anthony's player option upcoming, the offseason will prove critical for the Knicks' future.
No matter what happens, though, with no draft picks and not much cap room, the rebuilding process may last well beyond summer of 2014.