Injured rival increases Knicks' chance of securing top three seed in East

The Knicks are 1.5 games back from the No. 3 seed.
New York Knicks
New York Knicks / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

Even without Julius Randle, OG Anunoby, and Mitchell Robinson, the New York Knicks have maintained their standing as a top team in the Eastern Conference. It hasn't been easy, and there have been other injury scares, but the Knicks have persevered.

If the season ended today, No. 4 New York would have homecourt advantage over No. 5 Orlando in the first round of the playoffs. The Knicks should have their sights set higher than that, as they're nearing the No. 3 spot. Cleveland, who has also dealt with several key injuries, has only a 1.5-game lead over New York after losing to Miami on Wednesday.

Evan Mobley last played on March 5. He's been out with a sprained ankle but is expected to return. Mobley missed nearly two months earlier in the season with a left knee injury. Donovan Mitchell, who recently missed two weeks with a bone bruise, is out again after undergoing surgery for a nasal fracture. He'll be re-evaluated in less than a week but could miss more time than that.

Like the Knicks, the Cavaliers have fought to stay at the top of the East even with injuries piling up. However, crunch time is approaching, as there are three weeks left in the regular season.

Knicks could finish as No. 3 seed in East after Donovan Mitchell's surgery

Robinson went through his first full contact practice since ankle surgery on Wednesday. He should be back soon and could be coming off the bench. Randle is still on track to be back this season. Anunoby suffered a setback after returning from elbow surgery, but an MRI came back clean. There's no timetable for his return, but it doesn't seem serious.

Somehow, the Knicks have managed to go 3-0 on their current road trip, with one game left on Thursday in Denver against the reigning NBA champions. The next man-up mentality has served New York well.

If the Knicks climb to No. 3, that'd be a nightmare scenario for the No. 6 team. The Pacers currently hold that spot, but the Heat and Sixers are on their heels. Avoiding the Play-In Tournament is obviously preferable, but facing New York wouldn't be much of a reward.

The Knicks aren't a team that opposing squads want to match up with now, so imagine what it'll be like in the playoffs when New York will hopefully roll out a healthy lineup.

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