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Nets back in sixth as race tightens and players stay optimistic

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets are once again the sixth seed in the East Wednesday morning, but there’s been a shake-up beneath them with the Magic replacing the Heat in the eighth spot. in Tuesday’s games, the Magic beat the Heat and the Pistons lost to the Nuggets.

And so, Brooklyn is a half game ahead of Detroit and a game ahead of Orlando. The Nets have the tiebreaker over the Pistons and Magic and are a game and a half ahead of Miami. The Hornets remain in 10th, but only two and a half behind the Nets — two back in the loss column.

“From here on out, every game’s going to be a war for us,” said Ed Davis, who with DeMarre Carroll and Jared Dudley, has the most experience in the playoffs. “The rest of our games are against playoff teams. They’re trying to tune things up and we’re trying to get in the playoffs, so it’s going to be a war. We’re really going to see what we’re made of.”

But Davis also thinks his team is ready.

“We don’t back down, no matter who we’re up against,” Davis added. “We fight, we take hard fouls, we do all the little things. We don’t back down, definitely not on my watch.”

Indeed, the Nets still have the toughest schedule left even as their seven-game, 16-day road trip winds down. Of their remaining seven games, all but one, the final game vs. Miami at home, is against a team currently in the playoffs.

Critical to the push, everyone from Kenny Atkinson on down knows, is rebounding. Atkinson pointed specifically to Jarrett Allen, who’s had some tough moments of late defending bigger, stronger 5’s.

“It’s our next step as a team,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “[Jarrett Allen], listen, that’s where he’s got to get better. He knows it, we all know it. He has to do a better job rebounding the ball.

“The only way you learn about it is to go through it. And we’re going through it right now. … It’s definitely going to help us down the road.”

Dudley said some of it is inexperience.

“It’s a personnel thing. It’s Jarrett Allen’s second year — he’ll get stronger, he’ll get more physical. We’re undersized at power forward. It’s Rodions’ first time playing at power forward and he’s a rookie. You [have] myself playing power forward and I’m not the most athletic guy,” Dudley said.

The Nets do have one big advantage despite the grueling road trip that ends Thursday in Philly and the worst schedule. Of the five teams fighting for three seeds, they have the best record. Their fate is in their hands.

“But we’re still at a point where we control our own destiny,” noted Davis. “We don’t have to sit back and hope that Orlando loses. It’s a good feeling when you control your own destiny.”