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From Will Leitch, New York Magazine

While most of us have been distracted with Cheerio-Gate — we can never decide on a name for that business; CARMELO-KG-HONEYNUT-BUS-FIGHT-GATE always messed up the margins on our posts — the Brooklyn Nets, with their old, interim "mostly known for Seton Hall and being choked by Latrell Sprewell" coach, have turned into the best team in the NBA. That really happened fast. Everybody missed it.

The Nets beat the Pacers 97–86 at Barclays last night, another impressive win in a string of them. The Nets were without Gerald Wallace, and Deron Williams was hobbled with a thigh injury ... but it didn't stop them (or Williams) from dominating the fourth quarter. Williams has completely turned his game around in the last two weeks, and he was excellent again yesterday, scoring 22 points and dishing out nine assists. He also helped spur a 17–0 run in the third quarter that changed everything.

So take a look at what the Nets are up to right now. They have won six in a row, five of which have been by double digits, including a particularly inspirational win at Oklahoma City, the team with the best record in the NBA. Under P.J. Carlesimo, they are 8-1. They still haven't lost in 2013. And they're making some serious strides in the Atlantic Division: While the Knicks have been dealing with their defensive inconsistency and injuries, the Nets have bum-rushed them, and now they're only two games back. (With another game between the two teams a week from today.) The Nets' schedule over the next week is manageable too; they play Toronto at home tomorrow and then have a home-and-home with Atlanta before that Knicks game. There's a Western trip after that, but that's what wins like this do for you: They give you a cushion. And beating Indiana was particularly nice, considering it pushed the Nets a half-game ahead of the Pacers in the Eastern Conference.

 This part of the article really stood out to me: “While the Knicks have been dealing with their defensive inconsistency and injuries, the Nets have bum-rushed them, and now they’re only two games back.”

Yes, it’s great that the Nets are two games back in the Atlantic Division, but let’s hold on a second. Sure, the Nets are stealing the on-court headlines in New York, but frankly, until the Nets embarrass the Knicks like the Knicks did to the Nets last time, it’s still a Knick town.

Luckily, the two teams square off in a Martin Luther King Day matinee at the Madison Square Garden for round four. The Nets will be coming off a home-and-away series with the Atlanta Hawks, so the good competition will prepare Brooklyn for a tough matchup.

Looking ahead though, if the Nets can keep up their winning ways and beat the Knicks on their home court, maybe Knick fans will start acknowledging the Nets as a legitimate threat rather than the same old Nets from New Jersey.

Jim Mancari is a Contributor to Follow him on Twitter @JMMancari.

Tags: will leitch, NBA, nets, hottest team in nba, new york magazine, blog
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