In case you didn’t know, the New York Knicks think they’re as good as anyone in the NBA. This was made clear in Thursday’s 118-109 victory against the Boston Celtics. The Knicks defeated the Celtics behind strong performances from Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart, and Bojan Bogdanovic — who we suggested should join the starting lineup a month ago. But it’s pretty clear that New York is not satisfied. They’re focused on securing the second or third seed in the Eastern Conference NBA Playoffs, and they don’t care who they’ll play as a result of it.

On Thursday night, the Knicks started out incredibly hot (and fast). They accumulated a 21-point lead at halftime and didn’t look back. But what’s more impressive than the lead they built, is the way New York got the win.

Everyone contributed. Brunson looked as impressive as ever, scoring 39 points on 15-for-23 shooting. Hart was brilliant, pushing the ball up the floor and finding holes in the defense like an All-Pro running back. Bogdanovic continued his hot shooting, scoring 12 points in just over 18 minutes— and if he can do that in the playoffs, he’ll fill much of the void left by Julius Randle’s injury. OG Anunoby, Donte DiVincenzo, and Hartenstein all played their games, too.

To summarize, the Knicks demonstrated exactly how their depth will help them in the playoffs. New York will be able to go eight (or nine) deep without sacrificing much by way of talent, which is more than most playoff teams can do.

Celtics struggles?

As a disclaimer, it’s important to note that the Celtics are already in playoff mode. They are 13 games ahead of the second-seed Milwaukee Bucks, and that’s after dropping two straight games — which ties their season high for consecutive losses. 

But the idea of turning “it” on and off is relevant in last night’s game. The Celtics played their starters for much of the game against the Knicks, but their starters never really showed up —  and they didn’t show up against the Bucks on Tuesday either. That could be problematic, as turning “it” back on is never as easy as it seems.

NBA Playoff seeding implications

New York Knicks forward Bojan Bogdanovic (44) drives to the basket past Boston Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis (8) during the first half at TD Garden.
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

That’s Boston’s problem, though. Save for a few worrisome moments when Brunson clutched his shooting wrist in the third quarter after drawing a charge, the Knicks look to be problem-free. But there’s still playoff seeding to fuss over.

New York is just one game behind the Bucks, who have games remaining against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Orlando Magic. Conversely, the Knicks have games remaining against the lowly Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls. How those situations play out will dictate exactly where the Knicks land in the East’s bracket. 

Coach Tom Thibodeau is obviously of the mind that he’s going to get his team ready to play every night, and he’ll let the chips fall where they may. But realistically, there are matchups the Knicks should hope to avoid and ones that are more favorable, too.

Knicks' NBA Playoff matchup preferences

The preeminent team that New York should hope to avoid is the Philadelphia 76ers, winners of six straight games. Much of Philadelphia’s recent success coincides with the return of reigning MVP Joel Embiid. And Embiid poses a matchup nightmare for New York and pretty much every other Eastern Conference foe. 

Conversely, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Magic, and Bucks all look vulnerable for various reasons. So, a matchup with any of those teams would be ideal. A first-round matchup with Milwaukee is almost impossible given where they’re seeded (second) relative to New York (third). But Cleveland and Orlando are still possible depending on how the Knicks finish the year.

No matter where the Knicks end up in terms of seeding, they should be confident entering the playoffs. They’ve won three in a row and six of their last 10 games. And their most important players are playing great basketball at exactly the right time. While the 76ers look dangerous, the Knicks should feel good about any first-round matchup they’re dealt, no matter what the pundits say.