It was a little more than halfway through the third quarter when the game between the Magic and Bobcats came to an end.
After the Bobcats briefly closed to within one point, they did what they had done in the previous 21 games and found a way to lose. That meant the Knicks had no chance to move up to the sixth seed to avoid a date with the Bulls and Heat.
To plenty of people, it also meant that the Knicks should be doing everything in their power to lose to the Clippers so that they could wind up with the Bulls as their first-round opponents. The matchup feels like the better one for the Knicks thanks to a hobbled Derrick Rose and the lack of imagination in Chicago's crunchtime offense, but it seems Mike Woodson doesn't agree.
The Knicks did pull Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler before the end of the third, but they didn't turn to the end of the bench until after J.R. Smith and Steve Novak continued their bid for a sitcom by shooting the team to an 18-point lead.
It's a ready-made episode where Woodson comes back to the locker room after the game to berate the duo for winning a game they were supposed to lose, J.R. gives a speech about how he just doesn't know how to lose and then Novak gives him a flying chest bump as the screen freezes to end the show.
Just remember that when Smith goes 1-for-9 in the fourth quarter of a game the Knicks actually need to win. Woodson eventually turned to Dan Gadzuric and Mike Bibby and the Clippers went on a run that made it a one-point game late in the fourth.
Woodson could have turned to Josh Harrellson and Toney Douglas to finish the job, but he didn't. Chandler and Iman Shumpert returned to play defense, J.R. hit another three and the Knicks held on for a 99-93 win.
You can't get too angry about a team that doesn't like to lose, especially when it's not entirely clear how much advantage the team would really get from a loss. That means the seventh seed is there with a win or a Sixers loss to Detroit and tanking enthusiasts will like it when they hear that Anthony and Chandler are unlikely to play on Thursday night.
Less pleasant for that group is the fact that it is the Bobcats on the other side of the court. There's no quicker shorthand to describe how broken this Knicks team was early in the season than the fact that the Bobcats blew them out.
That loss is one of a handful against terrible teams that really hurt now that the Knicks will finish so close to a better playoff matchup. There's not much chance of that loss happening again, but it would be much sweeter if it just hadn't happened at all.
Even if the Knicks lost, they need the Sixers to lose and they were talking like a team thrilled to be Chicago-bound on Wednesday night. They'll likely be laying down for the Pistons, so it is probably best just to grit your teeth and accept that a playoff series against the Heat will start this weekend.
These Knicks have surprised us more than once this season. We'll find out soon if there's anything left in their bag of tricks.