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Nets confident they can reach playoffs

They're currently in a two-game skid, but winning nine of 10 earlier has hiked morale.

The Nets' Spencer Dinwiddie, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Ed

The Nets' Spencer Dinwiddie, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Ed Davis look on during the third quarter against the Lakers at Barclays Center on Dec. 18. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Nets tip off the new year four games under .500 and one game from a playoff spot. So after a last-day-of-2018 practice at HSS Training Center, Ed Davis was asked for his New Year’s resolution for this team.

“One would be to get to .500,” the first-year Net and ninth-year veteran said. “I think that’s something that’s definitely achievable, something that would be a good goal for us.”

But how about a season that finally comes with a postseason attached?

Can do, according to Davis.

“Playoffs? Yeah, for sure. I think that’s more achievable than the .500,” said Davis, the Nets’ rebounding leader. “You get to .500, you might mess around and be a fifth seed, sixth seed, for sure. Playoffs is definitely [possible]. We’re a game and a half out of the sixth spot, right? I think it’s definitely achievable.’’

It’s an Eastern Conference perk. Entering Monday night, the Nets (17-21) indeed were 1 1⁄2 games out of sixth, although the deficit became two games when the Hornets won to move to 18-18. Every team from seventh through 15th is below .500. So it’s up to the Nets to make the results match their hunger for the franchise’s first playoff pass since 2015.

“We’ve always been hungry to make the playoffs,” Jarrett Allen said. “That’s kind of been the goal since the start of the season. And now that we’re really just on the edge of it, it’s kind of the extra push for us to keep playing hard.”

The Nets will play New Orleans on Wednesday night at Barclays Center, then have three games in four days on the road — Memphis, Chicago and Boston — starting Friday.

After winning nine of 10, the Nets dropped their last two. But that taste of consistent winning has been good for the environment.

“It changes so much,” Allen said. “Even now, we lost the two games, we still know we’re better than how we played. So the mentality and the morale are still up.”

The Nets won 20 games in their first season under Kenny Atkinson, then improved to 28 last season. Now they’re on pace to make a similar jump.

“I don’t think we’ve made the huge breakthrough, the smash through the ceiling with our football helmet on, yay,” Atkinson said. “It’s kind of an on-target progress.”

In order to stay on target, they’re going to have to overcome their tough road stretches and injuries. Caris LeVert has been out since dislocating his foot Nov. 12. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson suffered a strained right adductor/groin Saturday against Milwaukee. An injury to the left one from a charity game Aug. 4 in China sidelined him until Oct. 24, the fourth game of the season.

“Not as bad as China, the China incident,” Atkinson said. “Not nearly as bad .  . . I can’t give you a timetable, but it’s not a huge, long process like he went through in the offseason.”

Atkinson said Allen Crabbe is “doubtful” to return against the Pelicans after missing nine games with a sore right knee. He said the shooting guard “still is not there.”

Treveon Graham, who can play the two, three and four spots, hurt a hamstring in the second game of the season. But Atkinson said he’s “super-close.”

As close as Wednesday?

“Probably not that close,” he said. “But we’re inches away from him coming back.”

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