They deserve time for a pat on the back or at the very least share a collective handshake and hug. The Nets have clinched a playoff berth after beating the Rockets without Dwight Howard 106-95 Tuesday night at Barclays Center.

It’s no small feat considering their 10-21 start and the trouble their counterparts in the neighboring borough are having securing their own postseason berth.

“It’s been a long road,” said guard Deron Williams. “It’s been a lot of ups and downs and we went through a lot at the beginning of the season with injuries. But [making the playoffs] is something we expected. Now we just want to move up as high as we can.”

It’s admirable the Nets are vowing not to take their foot off the gas. But don’t blame them if they exhale a bit. The Knicks aren’t as fortunate, which is why their meeting with the Nets on Wednesday night at the Garden carries more importance for the Knicks than the Nets.

At (32-43), the Knicks are fighting to catch Atlanta for the eighth spot, and can’t afford an off night. Every game carries and extreme measure of importance. The Nets no longer have to carry that weight even though there are still games to win.

“We’re both fighting,” said Nets guard Joe Johnson, who scored 32 against the Rockets. “They’re fighting to get in and we’re fighting to move up. It’s definitely a valuable game for both teams and it will be playoff intensity.”

The reality is the Nets could reach for cruise control, if they like. The Knicks can’t. How they got to this ending is a matter of what went right for the Nets and why the Knicks have struggled.