The Knicks are crawling to the end of the season, with the league’s worst record and best odds for the No. 1 draft pick almost in their grasp.
But misery loves company, and ESPN’s Ian Begley reported a couple of Knicks are eager to spoil the Nets’ season when surging Brooklyn comes to Madison Square Garden Wednesday night (March 31).
“They’re right there with Boston. We know that we can kind of be that spoiler,” Jason Smith told Begley after practice Tuesday. “I think that gives us a lot of energy, motivation. We haven’t had a [good] type season but we want to go out there and kind of ruin everybody else’s season, too.”
Brooklyn (33-40) has won three in a row, eight of 10 and is a half-game ahead of Boston in the race for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Nets beat the Pacers 111-106 Tuesday and have a 1 1/2-game lead over Indiana.
The Nets are 3-0 against the Knicks this season and poised to sweep the season series for the first time since 2006-07.
Cleanthony Early told Begley: “Things are already messed up, let’s mess some other things up.”
Recap The Nets won their season-high fourth in a row after losing a 19-point first-half lead to move back into the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.
Need to know: Brook Lopez had 24 points and 11 rebounds, Joe Johnson 21 points and Alan Anderson 20 to lead the Nets in a key win over one of their rivals for the East’s last playoff spot.
Lopez has scored at least 20 points in seven consecutive games — the second-longest such streak of his career (11 straight from Feb. 26-March 21, 2011). Lopez has reached 30 points in four of his past seven starts.
Johnson, who had 16 points in the second half, hit a three with 15.4 seconds left to put it away for the Nets.
The Nets led 35-18 at the end of the first quarter — when Lopez scored 14 — but the Pacers outscored them 39-24 in the second, when Nets starters only scored three points.
Thaddeus Young returned after missing two games with a hyperextended knee and had eight points and seven rebounds in 39 minutes.
Anderson (3-for-4 from three) scored 20 or more points for the second time this season and fourth time as a Net.
In the first period, Deron Williams (11 points, eight assists) recorded his 6,000th career assist on Johnson’s 1,700th career three-pointer.
George Hill had 28 points to lead the Pacers, who had five players in double figures. . .Pacers coach Frank Vogel picked up a technical with 3:25 remaining and the Pacers trailing 99-95.
The Pacers, now 1 1/2 games behind the Nes, play the other teams in the race for the final two Eastern Conference playoff spots: at Boston Wednesday and home to Charlotte on Friday and Miami on Sunday.
Links: AP recap | Box Score
What’s Next: The Nets visit the Knicks Wednesday (7:30 p.m.).
The Nets (32-40) host the Indiana Pacers (32-41) on Tuesday night.
The game is scheduled for 7:30 on YES and WFAN.
Joe Johnson, Thaddeus Young, Brook Lopez, Markel Brown and Deron Williams are expected to start.
The Nets are currently in ninth in the Eastern Conference, trailing the Boston Celtics (33-41). Boston is off on Tuesday, but plays the Pacers on Wednesday night.
3/12/15: The Nets shot 61.3 percent from the field in Indiana, shooting the fifth-highest FG % in an NBA game this season and second-highest in an NBA road game this season. It was also the highest FG % the Pacers had allowed any team to shoot on their home court since 4/5/92 (when the Nets shot 61.5% at IND) and the highest FG % for the Nets in a game in more than six years (2/4/09 at WAS).
Thaddeus Young will be available for Tuesday’s game against the Pacers, the team announced.
Young had been sidelined with a left knee sprain.
The news is music to Lionel Hollins’ ears, who has come to recognize Young’s contributions to the team since suiting up earlier this season.
“All I know is since the All-Star [Game], since the trade and we got Thaddeus, we have played differently,’’ Hollins said. “Part of it is we started out playing small, we had an edge over some teams, and then we get Thaddeus in the starting lineup. He gives us an edge with quickness and versatility because of his size and what he can do and what he brings to the part.’’
This is the biggest game of the year for Brooklyn, and the Nets obviously want to get themselves as close to full strength as possible. Young has been a difference maker since joining the club, and having him back will certainly give the Nets tons of confidence. A win would solidify the ground underneath the Nets’ shaky playoff status, and they need their stars to step up.
Steve from Yonkers writes: Brian, you’ve been extremely negative about the Nets this season, but it seems like the last week has changed your attitude about the team. Do you almost feel yourself rooting against the Nets down the stretch to prove yourself right about them?
Absolutely not. Here’s the thing, Steve. I write this blog both my own lens as a Nets fan. That experience has been extremely maddening this year. The inconsistency has really put them in position to have to grind out these final 10 games to get in the playoffs, and I think my posts has been reflective of that all season. But at the end of the day, I’m a fan who wants the team to do well.
What I try to do is give you my genuine opinion throughout the ebs and flows of the season. It may come across as a bit bipolar, and I get that. But after that Celtics loss last Monday, did you think the team would have the eight seed a week later? I know I didn’t, but there they were, beating the Cavs only days later. The best case scenario for me would be to skip around and write about 82 straight wins en route to an NBA title, but in the meantime, I’m going to call it like I see it. And while Brooklyn is certainly in good position to get themselves to the postseason, the franchise still has a lot of work to do.
Brook Lopez has been named Eastern Conference Player of the Week.
In four games last week, Lopez averaged 28.8 points and 8.5 rebounds while shooting 55.8 percent from the field (48-for-86).
This is the first time in his career that Lopez has won the honor.
This was a pretty obvious choice, as Lopez has arguably been playing the best ball of his career these past four contests. It seems that Brook has his legs under him now, and it’s really helping him drive Brooklyn’s offense. With his minutes on a steady rise and his production continuing to grow, there’s no signs of slowing down, and it could power the Nets to the playoffs for the third consecutive season