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Knicks outlast Celtics to clinch No. 4 seed, homecourt in first round of playoffs

Barrett Knicks Celtics
New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) drives to the basket against Boston Celtics center Luke Kornet (40) during the second half at Madison Square Garden.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks will be hosting Game 1 of the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs next week.

One of the largest surprises of the NBA season clinched the No. 4 seed in the East during its season finale on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, defeating the Boston Celtics 96-92.

The Knicks will face the No. 5 Atlanta Hawks in the opening round of the playoffs, which is expected to begin later this week.

It was the two-headed monster of RJ Barrett and Julius Randle that led the Knicks once again, ensuring the team stayed hot heading into the playoffs.

Barrett led the Knicks with 22 points while Randle added 20 points and seven rebounds to pace New York’s 15th win in 19 games to end the regular season.

The Knicks’ advantage derived from a monster second half in which they outscored the Celtics 31-15 to build a comfortable advantage that never wavered. Barrett led the way with 14 of his day’s total point output in that quarter.

Granted, a comfortable victory was almost expected with so much on the line for the Knicks while the Celtics — who are confirmed participants of the play-in tournament — sat all of their starters and top contributors.

Jayson Tatum, Tristan Thompson, Kemba Walker, Robert Williams, Evan Fournier, and Marcus Smart were sidelined with a litany of injury issues — which gave head coach Brad Stevens an easy excuse to rest his players up before the start of the postseason.

The problem was that no one told the Celtics’ backup squad, as they nearly overturned a 15-point deficit entering the fourth quarter, going on an 18-2 run — but the Knicks did just enough to hang on thanks to a jumper from Bullock and free throws from Randle to clinch it.

The Knicks end their regular season at 41-31, which is their best mark in eight years.

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