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In Atlantic Division race, Nets have advantages

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Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

The Nets are two games out of first in the Atlantic Division, but as the stretch run begins, Brooklyn seems to have advantages over their crosstown rivals, Tim Bontemps writes Thursday.

Starting in March the advantages are not just in quality of opponents --the Knicks schedule is brutal; but in quantity of games left to be played --the Knicks play more games in less time; and in tiebreakers --other than the head-to-head tie, the Nets currently own all the other advantages ... and are likely to retain them.

Bontemps breaks down the quality angle this way...

Here’s what the Nets schedule looks like over the final 24 games (records and percentages through Wednesday night’s games):

-- Nine games in Brooklyn, compared to 15 on the road.

-- Nine games against teams over .500, compared to 15 against teams below .500

-- An opponent’s winning percentage of 44.7 percent overall, including 39.8 percent at home and 47.6 on the road.

And here’s what the Knicks schedule looks like over the final 28 games:

-- 12 games at the Garden, compared to 16 on the road.

-- 16 games against teams over .500, compared to 12 against teams below .500.

-- An opponent’s winning percentage of 50.8 percent overall, including 51.4 percent at home and 50.3 on the road.

In terms of tiebreakers, the Nets lead the Knicks in both division and conference records, which comes after head-to-head in the list of tiebreakers. So, if that stays the same, and it's likely to, the Knicks will have to finish ahead of the Nets to win the division.

Could Boston swoop in and take it? They're third, three games behind the Nets and five behind the Knicks, but again the Nets hold big advantages over the Celtics in division and conference records. And the Nets have a chance to win the head-to-head vs. Boston in a nationally televised game on April 10, a week before the season ends. The Nets currently hold a 2-1 advantage over the Celtics.