Finally, we get to see which team will claim the bragging rights of New York when the Knicks face off against the Brooklyn Nets tonight on TNT. This game marks the beginning of a new rivalry within the empire state: Brooklyn’s finest and New York City’s beloved Knicks. Both teams are coming off big wins yesterday with the Knicks handling the Pistons in an easy 121-100 victory, and the Nets defeating the Trailblazers 98-85.
The Knicks were led once again by Carmelo Anthony who has stirred up some early MVP talk. Anthony finished with 29 points on 10 of 18 shooting and hit four threes. This was a bounce-back game after New York suffered their biggest loss of the season Friday on the road against Houston. The Rockets could not be stopped offensively while they put up a season high 131 points over New York’s 102. After the Knicks’ win Sunday morning, they are now 9-3 and are half a game behind the Miami Heat, who sits at the top of the Eastern Conference.
The Nets struggled in the first half against Portland, but ran away with the game in the fourth quarter as they outscored the Blazers 28 to 15. Without LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers were unable to hang with the Nets on the boards as Reggie Evans grabbed 14 rebounds off the bench, and Kris Humphries finished with 10 rebounds and 14 points. Rookie point guard Damian Lillard was the second leading rebounder for Portland with only 6. Even though the Nets had an inferior shooting performance in all related categories, Brooklyn took care of the ball with only 12 turnovers and used their rebounding advantage to come away with the win. The Nets are now 8-4 and currently third in the East, just behind New York.
The Knicks will be the favored team in tonight’s matchup. They have a core group of players that have been together for some time now and have naturally been playing well together. Very few teams have looked as good as they have this year. But Brooklyn is starting to develop their own chemistry and seem to be getting better each game. The beginning of the season has not been as easy for them, but the team’s effort—a reflection of their head coach Avery Johnson—has allowed them to win games. Having one of the best floor generals in the league also helps a little bit.
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But forget about what each team has done to start the season; New York’s reputation will mean nothing when they step into the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. The Nets have some of the most passionate fans in the NBA and they can’t wait for tonight’s matchup. This game should be a little more intense than the average regular season game. These teams aren’t just fighting for the top of their division; they will be fighting for New York: the city with the biggest ego in sports. A city that loves their sports teams, but will turn against them the minute they start to underperform. New York possesses a pressure that most cities don’t even compare to. Both teams will be under the microscope this evening.
So what will determine who walks away with a victory? To begin with, Brooklyn must defend the three-point line. New York is a top five three-point shooting team and when they get hot they are nearly impossible to beat. The Nets have to get back in transition and keep the Knicks from getting easy looks at the rim and open shots from behind the arc. Likewise, the Knicks must contain Deron Williams in the open floor make Joe Johnson work for his buckets. Jason Kidd is a strong and smart defender, but Joe Johnson should look to be aggressive against the aging guard.
This game has a number of interesting matchups. At center, Brooklyn likes to get Brook Lopez going in the offense, but he will face one of the toughest defenders at his position in Tyson Chandler, who won defensive player of the year last season. At power forward, Brooklyn will have the difficult task of defending Carmelo Anthony. It will be interesting to see how Coach Avery Johnson looks to matchup with Melo throughout the game, but we will have to assume he will defer to his best defender Gerald Wallace. Kris Humphries simply does not have the quickness or ability to contain Anthony. But Wallace is one of the toughest players in the league and with his quickness and strength, he will be one of the more formidable players in the league to check Anthony.
The matchup that could make the difference in this game is the point guard spot. Raymond Felton will have to prove he can still hang with Deron Williams. Felton has played well and has been extremely confident playing with this Knicks team. If Felton can nearly match Williams’ production, the Nets will be in for a long night. What I want to know is if Deron will step his game up and show that he is the elite point guard in this game. He has played big at times this season, but not often.
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In the end what the fans want to see is a shootout. Ideally, we would see two of the game’s best players in Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams going back and forth on the offensive end down the stretch. Carmelo doesn’t take nights off being aggressive in trying to score the ball, so it will be up to Deron Williams to match his level of play in order for Brooklyn to get the first win in this battle for New York dominance.