NEW YORK — When the Knicks visit the Miami Heat on Tuesday, a winning streak will be on the line.
But it won’t be what would’ve been Miami’s 30-game winning streak had they kept it going and not stumbled last week against the Chicago Bulls.
Instead, after beating the Boston Celtics 108-89 on Easter Sunday at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks will put their NBA-best eight-game streak on the line against LeBron and Company with a chance to take the season series, 3-1.
And they could have All-Star center Tyson Chandler back in the lineup for the first time after missing 10 games with a bulging disc in his neck. Chandler said before the game that his goal is to practice Monday and then suit up for Tuesday’s tilt.
Meantime, the Heat rested James, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers Sunday night and still beat the Spurs in San Antonio, 88-86, on a Chris Bosh 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left.
“It don’t matter who they put out there,” Carmelo Anthony said after putting up 24 points and 10 rebounds in the win. “Them guys are still going to play, they still basketball players. They still pros. If them guys play, that’s cool. If they don’t, it’s cool. We’ still going out there to play.”
The Knicks will enter that game feeling good about themselves to be sure.
Although they haven’t officially won the Atlantic Division title for the first time since 1994, the Knicks are now 4 1/2 games up on the Nets and 8 1/2 up on Boston.
They also took a season series from the Celtics, 3-1, for the first time since 2003-4.
Yes, the Celtics are without Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo, but the Knicks will take the wins against a team they could face in the first round of the playoffs.
“Anytime you can take three out of four against a team like Boston is always a good thing,” Anthony said.
Said Celtics star Paul Pierce: “If we play them in the playoffs and they think they got our number we did it to ourselves.”
The Knicks are now 46-26, just four games shy of winning 50 for the first time since 1999-00.
Rasheed Wallace wrote on a dry erase board in the locker room before the game: “50 – Goal.”
“Fifty wins is always a great thing in this league to accomplish,” Anthony said. “Winning the division is always a great thing to accomplish in this league.”
In the bigger picture, the Knicks are a virtual lock to be either the No. 2 or 3 seed in the postseason, which would mean avoiding the Heat until the finals, assuming New York can get that far.
For now, though, they get one more shot to win the season series against Miami, extend their winning streak and boost their own confidence going forward.
“We can’t putting that pressure on ourselves saying this game or that game is a measuring stick for us,” Anthony said. “We are going in and try to win basketball games. It is not about measuring ourselves against them.”
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