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Knicks 110, Nets 81

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NEW YORK — The Knicks’ goal of making the playoffs, considered a dream a month ago, is closer to becoming a reality after New York’s 110-81 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

New York (33-43) improved to 12-3 in its past 15 games, and it drew even with the Atlanta Hawks (32-42) for the eighth and final in the Eastern Conference playoff position. The Knicks lead the Hawks by percentage points.

The fifth-place Nets (40-34) fell to 5-12 in the second game of back-to-backs. They defeated the Houston Rockets 105-96 Tuesday to clinch a playoff berth.

Knicks shooting guard J.R. Smith poured in 24 points, and forward Carmelo Anthony added 23 points and 10 rebounds.

Shooting guard Joe Johnson led Brooklyn with 16 points.

New York was effective in the low post, scoring 36 points in the paint, and the perimeter, where it nailed 11 3-pointers. The Nets’ last lead was 18-16 in the first quarter.

Brooklyn went on a 10-0 run to get to within 70-54 in the middle of the third quarter. New York went five minutes without scoring from the floor, but it built its lead back to 82-60 on a 3-pointer from Smith with 21 seconds left in the quarter.

New York’s starting point guard, Raymond Felton, left the game after landing hard on his right shoulder while fighting for a rebound with 7:56 left in the third quarter and the Knicks ahead 70-50. He was diagnosed with a bruised rib and back, but he came back with 9:55 left in the game.

New York went on a 44-18 run spanning the first and second quarters to grab a 63-38 cushion. Anthony scored 16 first-half points as New York shot 67 percent from the floor.

Knicks shooting guard Iman Shumpert recorded four steals in the half as the Nets committed nine turnovers leading to 16 New York points.

The Nets’ offense was out of rhythm for most of the first half. Brooklyn failed to score from the floor in the last 4:31 of the second quarter, getting outscored 14-4.

Brooklyn wound up shooting 40 percent from the floor on the night, while New York made 60 percent of its field-goal attempts.

NOTES: Knicks G Tim Hardaway Jr. left Monday’s game against the Utah Jazz due to a sprained right ankle, but he played 28 minutes Wednesday and scored 17 points. … Before Wednesday’s action, the Nets were 30-12 record since January, the best record in the Eastern Conference over that span and fourth best in the league. … The Nets are the only team to win 14 consecutive home games this season. … Brooklyn is heading to the playoffs in successive seasons for the first time since 2005-06 and 2006-07. … Knicks F Amar’e Stoudemire averaged 15.5 points and 30 minutes over his previous five games before Wednesday. He scored 13 points in 21 minutes against the Nets.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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