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“As fans and as students of the game, we know how hard it was for the New York Knicks, the franchise, and for the city to have to go through that, not making the playoffs year in and year out, not having nothing to look forward to in the postseason,’ Anthony said. “So now we want to change that.”

D’Antoni, a regular 50-game winner in Phoenix, had to endure two 50-loss seasons in New York while the Knicks implemented Walsh’s plan to clear enough cap space to sign two superstar free agents last summer. Stoudemire was the first and he vowed the Knicks would return to prominence, making the clinching victory special for him.

“Any time you accomplish a goal, you really have a sense of pride,” Stoudemire said. “After that game last night, I felt extremely emotional. I sat down with friends and family and were having a conversation about the hard work that took place to get to this point, and so we really cherished the moment last night, but now it’s time to get back on track.”

The Knicks (38-38) will spend the remaining six games trying to finish with their first winning record since going 48-34 in 2000-01. They are 1 1/2 games behind the 76ers for the No. 6 seed, with a game in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Then it’s on to what they believe is the first of many postseasons. The misery of the last six years is over, and Anthony says the standards are higher now.

“We’ve just got to win games,” he said. “We have a team now that we want to build on, be better, compete at a high level every year, but anything less than playoffs is a failure for us from here on out.”