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Nets-Knicks Preview

AP - Sports

With a playoff berth finally locked up, the Brooklyn Nets now have their sights set on climbing the ladder in the Eastern Conference.

Across the East River in Manhattan, the New York Knicks are also surging in their hunt for a spot in the postseason.

The Nets and Knicks resume the city rivalry Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

Brooklyn (40-33) clinched a playoff spot with a 105-96 victory over Houston on Tuesday night, the team's first against the Rockets since 2006.

Joe Johnson scored 32 points and Shaun Livingston added 17 for the Nets, who won their 14th straight at home - their longest NBA home streak and a season best in the league. They also moved within 1 1/2 games of Toronto and Chicago for the No. 3 seed in the East.

Brooklyn, which is 5-11 this season in the second game of a back-to-back, has averaged 108.3 points while going 7-2 in its last nine overall.

The Nets' 12-4 record in March earned Jason Kidd the conference's coach of the month award, and he became only the second to earn the honor twice in his rookie season.

Kidd was honored before Tuesday's win after the Nets played the entire month without starting center Kevin Garnett, who is out with back spasms. Kidd also won the award for January, joining the Bulls' Tom Thibodeau as the only two-time winners in their first season since the league began giving monthly coaching awards in 1982-83.

The former All-Star point guard has led the Nets all the way back from a 10-21 start.

"Honestly, I couldn't even see it," Johnson said of reaching the postseason. "I kept saying to myself eventually this is going to turn around, things are going to turn for us. Eventually it did starting the new year. We were a different team, our mindset was different and the way we played was different."

The Knicks (32-43), meanwhile, have won 11 of 14 and trail Atlanta by one game for the East's final playoff spot. The Hawks were virtually giving it away before ending a six-game skid with a win over Philadelphia on Monday. They host Chicago on Wednesday.

New York's defense has been strong in the last two games, limiting Golden State and Utah to an average of 83.5 points to close a 3-2 western trip that opened with an embarrassing 127-96 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Carmelo Anthony scored 34 points Monday against the Jazz on 11-of-19 shooting, and Tyson Chandler added 15 points and nine rebounds for the Knicks, who held Utah to just one field goal over a 7 1/2-minute stretch spanning the third and fourth quarters.

New York went on a 17-2 run during Utah's drought, and Anthony capped the surge with a pair of baskets for an 84-69 lead with 9:53 remaining.

"He's doing a lot of the little things," coach Mike Woodson said. "He's done that all season. He's been there when we needed him and now everybody is starting to chip in. It doesn't matter who plays. They're really taking advantage of the minutes they're getting."

The Knicks will need to keep their defense on an upswing after the last meeting with Brooklyn on Jan. 20 ended with a 103-80 loss that matched their second-lowest point total this season. Anthony scored 26 points, but the rest of the starting five put in only 20.

The teams have split six games since the Nets relocated to Brooklyn before the start of last season. New York won the first meeting, 113-83 on Dec. 5 at Barclays Center.

The season series concludes April 15 in Brooklyn.

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