As the Knicks reconvene for the post All-Star break and final two months of the season, they do it with their hopes, goals — and elderly cast of characters — still intact.

For the Knicks, it is that last part that will hold the key to keeping the hopes and goals alive.

The Knicks emerged from their first 50 games with the top spot in the Atlantic Division and a four-game deficit to try to catch the Miami Heat for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

They did it by battling through a series of bumps and bruises that left the team incomplete, starting the season without Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert and then waiting for the return of Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby.

But they have stayed in position while keeping an eye on the finish line, trying to nurse the aging roster to the time when they know they will need them most of all — in the postseason.

Here are three keys to the Knicks’ stretch run:

* Manage Jason Kidd. Brought in to be a backup, Kidd has had to play more minutes and a larger role than the Knicks wanted. The result has been a severe drop-off in efficiency. Coach Mike Woodson insists he wants to cut back on the demands Kidd is facing to keep him ready for the playoffs.

* Return to defense. The focus on defense that keyed Woodson’s game plan has drifted throughout the season. The team’s defensive rating dropped precipitously in December and January, but has tightened up in February. The return of Shumpert to form would be a huge help. He hasn’t been the player he was as a rookie, rushing back from knee surgery.

* Second option. Carmelo Anthony has played at a near-MVP level much of the season and been, as usual, an unstoppable offensive force. But the Knicks have not had a reliable second option. Sometimes it’s Raymond Felton and, too often, J.R. Smith. If the Knicks can get Stoudemire to be that steady force it would benefit the inside-outside mix.