If the Knicks finish seventh or eighth In the Eastern Conference after the pandemic-shortened 72-game regular season, their long-suffering fans will want to throw a parade for Tom Thibodeau’s club down the Canyon of Heroes.
But they wouldn’t be celebrating the official end of the Knicks’ seven-year playoff drought – tied for the longest in franchise history (with 1959-60-1965-66).
The Post has learned clubs finishing seventh through 10th are not considered “playoff’’ teams unless they qualify for the final eight. The two losers of the play-in event fall back to the lottery and, hence, can’t technically make the claim of being a pandemic playoff team.
The individual numbers from play-in games won’t count as playoff statistics or regular-season numbers, according to an industry source. The NBA has recently decided the stats will be labeled in a separate entity:” “Play-in Tournament Statistics.’’
Following their dispiriting 134-101 loss to the Bucks on Thursday to open the season’s second half, the Knicks (19-19) fell into a tie for sixth place with Charlotte.
The league is expected to keep the Play-in Tournament for at least next season if it works out well, according to the industry source.
Especially for a shortened season that began Dec. 23, the NBA believes the new format adds extra drama beyond the play-in games.
It sets up a spicy battle for the all-important sixth seed, with the winner avoiding the perils of the play-in.
Under the format, the No. 7 seed faces No. 10 and No. 8 takes on No. 9.
The seventh and eighth seeds need to win once to advance to the playoffs while ninth and 10th seeds have to string together two victories to avoid the lottery. It’s been widely reported all ten qualifiers were deemed playoff clubs.
In past years, the top eight seeds from each conference made the playoffs. The Knicks are no locks to even make the top 10 – let alone hold on for the key guaranteed sixth slot..
The Knicks are just 1 ½ games out of 11th place and face, based on current opponent won-loss records, the fourth-toughest schedule in the NBA in the second half.
When the Knicks were 19-18 at the All-Star Break, their first-half schedule, based on records, was ranked mathematically the second-easiest in the NBA.
“The schedule is the schedule,’’ Thibodeau said. “Sometimes it’s in your favor. Sometimes it’s not.”’
The Knicks play in Oklahoma City Saturday – a club that beat them in January. Then it’s the East’s top two teams – at Barclays Center on Monday against the Nets and in Philly Tuesday against the 76ers in a bruising back-to-back.