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Only One New York Basketball Team Should Be Talking Playoffs…

by Steven Simineri | Posted on Monday, March 24th, 2014

Early Sunday afternoon the Atlanta Hawks coughed up a double-digit fourth quarter lead against the Toronto Raptors, giving the New York Knicks an opportunity to move within two games of a playoff position in the Eastern Conference with a win over the lowly Cavaliers later in the evening. But instead of capitalizing on the opportunity Mike Woodson’s group, true to their form, squandered away a 15-point half time lead and all but flushed away any chance of sneaking into the post-season.

After winning 8-straight games the Knicks showed their true colors last night, but so did another New York team. Right around the same time the Knicks were imploding, Jason Kidd’s, Brooklyn team was digging out from a 14-point deficit on the road in Dallas. On what was the rookie coach’s 41st birthday, his team gave him the best of gifts with a big comeback overtime victory over his former team, keeping them within 1 ¹/₂ games of the Raptors for first place in the Atlantic Division and moving to within a game of the fourth-place Bulls in the East.

Steven Senne/Associated Press

Steven Senne/Associated Press

The Nets seem to forever play in the Knicks shadow, so it’s just their luck that their recent surge has been drowned out by all the talk about the Zen Master returning home. While the Knickerbockers have owned the back-pages, the Nets are the one’s 27-10 since Jan. 1, in the mix for home court and winners of eleven straight at Barclays Center. Kidd’s veteran group has something a team like the Knicks wishes they possessed and it was highlighted during their 107-104 win over the Mavericks.

“One word: grit,” 16-year veteran Paul Pierce said in describing the win. “It’s one of those gritty games right there. Most of the game, things didn’t really go our way. We really didn’t get a lot of calls, but the guys stuck in there and grinded it out.”

They are by no means in the Championship conversation, but they have definitely shown their worth since it was reported late in December that Kidd was “Losing the locker room.” Since then Brooklyn has improbably righted themselves and picked up victories over some worthy opponents in the Thunder, Warriors, Spurs, Grizzlies, Bulls, Raptors, Suns, Mavericks and defending Champion Heat twice.

They have done this with coaching, teamwork and a little bit of luck. Certainly, losing Brook Lopez wasn’t a good thing, but it forced Kidd to alter his lineup, shifting Kevin Garnett to center and Pierce to power forward. The result has been more wins; more mismatches and a weirdo small-ish lineup that has transformed an awful defensive team into a long-armed, turnover-generating machine.

As the playoffs come into sight Brooklyn is hitting their stride and so are their two best players. Deron Williams has played much better since the All-Star break and it appears that after a rough start Pierce finally has his sea legs under him. While a sizable gap still exists between the Heat and Pacers and everyone else, the Nets are quietly emerging as a dark horse and the Hall of Fame bound Pierce is a believer.

“Nobody is talking about us, but we feel like we match up with anybody in the league, especially in the Eastern Conference,” the former Celtic Captain told reporters a few days back. “Let the chips fall where they may.

“Come playoff time, we feel we can compete with the best of them, and we feel like we can be one of the better teams in the East, if not come out of the East, and we’ll be able to surprise a couple of teams.”

However, it might be time for people to start talking about them because they are the only basketball team in New York with the word “playoffs” associated with them.

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