Nets and Knicks face each other with seasons going in opposite directions

For the first time this season, the Brooklyn Nets will make the 6-mile journey across the East River to face their longtime rivals, the New York Knicks, on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

For the free-falling Nets (26-44), the matchup will be more about pride than anything else with just 12 games left in the season.

After Thursday’s 115-108 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn has lost five straight games and seven of eight since March 5.

Since being at .500 on Dec. 26, the Nets are 11-29, leaving little chance for a postseason appearance, although they have yet to be eliminated. This would mark the first playoffs the Nets have not participated in since 2018.

Despite the brutal last few months, Brooklyn hasn’t stopped fighting, which was evident on Thursday.

Although they ultimately fell to the Bucks, the Nets erased a 20-point deficit to take a fourth-quarter lead in Milwaukee.

“I loved their joy and the way they competed,” Nets interim coach Kevin Ollie said. “They played for each other. It was fun to watch basketball. I just want those guys to keep doing it and the results will come. I know I sound like a broken record, but that’s what I believe.”

Mikal Bridges’ 24 points led Brooklyn, while Nicolas Claxton added 22 and Cam Thomas added 21.

On the season, Thomas leads the team with 21.5 points per game, followed by Bridges with 20.5.

Ollie, who took over for the fired Jacque Vaughn during the All-Star break, went 5-11.

Brooklyn’s rivals have had more to smile about this year, as the Knicks (41-28) have won four of their last five games.

New York had put together a four-game winning streak before Denver’s 113-100 loss to the Nuggets on Thursday.

The 113 points allowed were the most the Knicks’ stingy defense had scored since the 116 scored by the Atlanta Hawks on March 5.

Under defensive-minded coach Tom Thibodeau, New York’s 108 points per game put New York second in the league, only behind the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 106.7.

However, Thibodeau’s team saw the defending champions shoot 53.6% from the field, while Nikola Jokic had 30 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists.

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