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 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff position. The Knicks are percentage points ahead of the Atlanta Hawks.
“We’re aware of what Atlanta does,” said Knicks coach Mike Woodson, “but at the end of the day, it’s what we do that matters.”
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.
Rookie guard Tim Hardaway Jr., who suffered a sprained ankle against Utah on Monday, provided a spark off the Knicks bench, scoring 17 points in 28 minutes.
“The training staff did a great job on the long flight home, making sure my foot was elevated and that the swelling was down.” Hardaway said. “I was just looking to run the lanes. Getting offensive rebounds and kick-outs.”
Shooting guard Joe Johnson led Brooklyn with 16 points. Guard Paul Pierce struggled for a second straight game, scoring eight points on 2-of-7 shooting in 27 minutes before Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd removed his starters early in the fourth quarter. The Nets shot 40 percent and were outrebounded, 41-23.
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.
“Our guard play was excellent tonight,” said Knicks center Tyson Chandler. “We got a lot of fast breaks as a result of it.”
The Knicks have held their last three opponents to 84 points or less.
The Nets and Knicks are separated by just five miles but the three games between them this season don’t indicate much of a rivalry. The Knicks defeated the Nets 113-83 at the Barclays Center and the Nets turned back the Knicks 103-80 at Madison Square Garden.
“We knew this was a big game for both teams,” said Joe Johnson of the Nets. “We just didn’t play very well.”
NOTES: F Carmelo Anthony registered his 22nd double-double of the season for the Knicks. … 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. … Referee Dick Bavetta was honored before the game for officiating his 2,633rd straight game. … Nets coach Jason Kidd picked up the first technical of his career in the first quarter for arguing a foul call on F Andray Blatche.
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