Only about eight miles separate the home arenas of the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets, but judging by each team's last two games, they're headed in opposite directions.
The Knicks look to win three straight for the first time in more than a year while the Nets look to avoid their first three-game skid in just over a month when they meet on Wednesday night at the Izod Center.
New York (11-26) is also seeking its third straight win against the Nets (18-19), but neither of those wins may have been as impressive as the Knicks' last two. They had lost nine of 10 before stunning Detroit 89-65 on Sunday, and followed that by ending Washington's three-game winning streak - including two in a row over league-leading Boston - with a 105-93 win on Tuesday.
The Knicks only won three straight twice last season, most recently from Jan. 3-10, 2007. They also hadn't won back-to-back games since Nov. 24-26.
Against the Wizards, Jamal Crawford had 29 points and made 6-of-7 from 3-point range, as the Knicks shot 51.2 percent from the floor. The Knicks also had just 11 turnovers after giving it away only seven times against the Pistons. Those are their two lowest totals in the last 20 games.
"It really gives me hope and belief there is a good team in here somewhere," New York coach Isiah Thomas said. "We've just to keep working at it and keep grinding and keep persevering. As long as we keep fighting and don't give up, there is a good team in here somewhere. We've just got to find it."
The Knicks' recent winning ways also have been without point guard Stephon Marbury, who will miss this game with an ankle injury that may require surgery. They are 4-4 in their last eight without Marbury, who missed nine games in December after his father's death, but just 1-9 in their last 10 with him.
The Nets, meanwhile, haven't lost three in a row since a four-game skid from Dec. 5-11, and their offense has stumbled recently. They are averaging just 75 points and shooting 35.2 percent from the field in their last two games, both home losses.
New Jersey scored just nine points in the fourth quarter of an 85-77 defeat to Boston on Friday, then started Monday's 99-73 loss to Portland with only 12 first-quarter points as no starter finished with more than 10 points.
"I'm going to take responsibility because obviously, we weren't prepared," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "We weren't ready to play. This was a poor performance on everyone's part."
Richard Jefferson had a season-low nine points on 2-of-11 shooting, while Vince Carter and Jason Kidd each had 10 points on combined 5-of-22 shooting. Kidd is just 7-of-28 from the floor in the last two games.
New Jersey had won six of seven and averaged 102.1 points before the skid, but also has struggled at home all season. The Nets are one of just four teams with a worse record at home (9-13) than on the road (9-6). Following this game, they'll head out on a season-high six-game road trip and will play 10 of their next 12 away from home.
The Nets have lost twice to the Knicks this season after having beaten them in 10 of the 11 previous meetings.
New York's 100-93 win at the Izod Center on Dec. 5 was one of their two road victories this season. Crawford is averaging 30.5 points against New Jersey in 2007-08.
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