The Knicks don't expect to be "out-schemed" again by the Nets Wednesday.
That was the term Tyson Chandler used after the Nets plastered the Knicks by 23 points Jan. 20 at Madison Square Garden. It was one of many low points of the season for the Knicks, but right now they are on a high.
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The Knicks have won 11 of their last 14 and are just a game behind Atlanta -- two in the loss column -- for the Eastern Conference's last playoff spot with seven to play.
Chandler said he never doubted the Knicks would climb back into the race, even after being 19 games under .500 less than a month ago, and likes their chances of making some noise.
"I always thought we would have a chance to really give ourselves a shot of making it into the playoffs," Chandler said. "I still believe if we get in there, somebody's going to be in trouble."
Two of the Knicks' remaining seven games are against the Nets. So the Nets have a chance to damage the Knicks' playoff chances. And you have to know Jason Kidd and the Nets would want nothing more than to kill the Knicks' postseason dreams.
But the Knicks (32-43) believe they're a different team than they were that day, when they looked flat-footed against the Nets' ball movement and out of position against their shooters all game.
The Knicks will have to be because their remaining games are against teams fighting for playoff position in the East, including the two-time reigning champion Miami Heat.
"These last seven games are big for us against teams that are going to give us a run for our money," Carmelo Anthony said. "We have to go out there and accept that challenge and be ready for that. The schedule's not in our favor right now so we got to go take games."
The Hawks (32-41) have nine games left, a far easier schedule than the Knicks and hold the tiebreaker.
After Wednesday night's game, the Knicks host Washington, play at Miami and Toronto, then end the season with three games in four nights. But all three are in New York: against Chicago, at Brooklyn and against Toronto.
The Hawks, who have won just seven of their last 27 games, host the Bulls and Cavaliers, are at Indiana, home for Detroit and Boston and play at the Nets. Atlanta's final three games are against the Heat, Bobcats and at Milwaukee.
Heading into Tuesday, the teams the Knicks play were a combined 73 games over .500. The Hawks' opponents were 37 games under .500.
"Every game is tough," Mike Woodson said. "It's tough winning on the road. We just got to go back and refocus and break down tape and get ready for Brooklyn. They're playing extremely well right now."
The Knicks may be without productive rookie and off-the-bench sparkplug Tim Hardaway Jr. He sprained his right ankle in the final seconds of the Knicks' win at Utah Monday night. Hardaway Jr. said he hoped with some treatment he would be able to play, but he was limping badly when he was walking around the locker room.
Amar'e Stoudemire didn't play in Monday's game, calling it a "maintenance and recovery day." But he said he would play against the Nets.
It's a quick turnaround for the Knicks, who arrived home very early Tuesday morning from Salt Lake City. But the Nets played Houston Tuesday night so Wednesday night will be the end of a back-to-back for them.
"We can't have any excuses at this point," Chandler said. "We have to come out and play. We have to leave it all on the basketball court."