The New York Knicks may be out of the playoffs but their final games of the season could help shape the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference, and turn Nets fans into quiet Knicks fans for the next week and a half.
New York will face three teams either chasing the Nets in the standings or being hunted by them in their final six games of the year. That means wins or losses against them will directly impact where the Nets stand when the regular season concludes.
The Nets entered Tuesday a half-game ahead of the Charlotte Hornets, who face the Knicks on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden, and one game ahead of the Atlanta Hawks. The Knicks will also see the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are three games ahead of Brooklyn, on Saturday and battle the Toronto Raptors, who have a 3.5 game lead on the Nets, in their final game of the regular season.
And let’s not forget one final battle for New York occurs next Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
That game will mark Kyrie Irving’s first time playing the New York rival this year. The return of Irving will help shape a lot of what happens for the Nets during the final week and a half of the season.
Irving missed a third of the year because of his decision to not get vaccinated and then was limited to just road games after he was brought back into the fold in January as a part-time player. Now the Nets won’t have to worry about the off-the-court drama since Irving is able to play at home.
And with their current circumstances, looking back at what could have been if he was on the floor just isn’t in the cards right now.
“Honestly there’s no time to consider the past,” Irving said. “It’s not going to do anybody in our locker room or anybody any just by thinking about what could have been. The shoulds and the could of’s. We can only control what we can control moving forward. We know where we are in the standings and we also know how much talent we have in that locker room and what we’re capable of doing. … I think what we’ve been able to learn thus far is when we limit our distraction, and that includes thinking about the past or what the future holds, we’re in a good place. That’s a good energy to have or good a mindset.
“So the mentality that we have is just to take it one day at a time, live in the moment and enjoy it cause nothing is guaranteed here.”
The Nets seem more than happy to move past the circumstances that kept Irving out and focus on what is in front of them. Brooklyn will face a talented Milwaukee Bucks team on Thursday before traveling to face an Atlanta team that is nipping at their heels over the weekend.
“Everybody is going through challenges this season as a team,” Kevin Durant said. “This is what we got in front of us and we have to lock-in. I’m excited about what’s ahead.”