Tuesday night’s ESPN double-header will kick off with a heavyweight matchup between the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets. This game will mark the second of four rounds between these two teams this season, all of which take place within the span of two months.
The first showdown, which took place in Brooklyn late last month, was a close game that went the Nets’ way by a marginal seven points in overtime. Tonight, the Knicks will get a chance to show fans at the Barclays Center they aren’t quite ready to hand over New York supremacy to the Nets.
The matchup between Brooklyn and New York is something of a rivalry that almost fails to exist in the NBA. Sure the Lakers and the Celtics are always a treat to watch, but unless it’s the NBA Finals we just don’t get that sort of rivalry feeling. After all, they do happen to be on opposite ends of the country. Of course there are two Los Angeles franchises, but up until recently nobody cared any more about that matchup than the next one. Even now, we wouldn’t consider them rivals. There are three NBA teams in Texas, but we don’t see them looking to beat up on each other so that they can claim the bragging rights of Texas. And there are almost always two Texas teams in the playoffs.
This is why New York vs. Brooklyn is so exciting. These two teams want to win as bad as North Carolina when they matchup with Duke in the battle for Tobacco road. This matchup contains passion and energy we fail to experience after guys make the jump into the pros. We get to watch a game with playoff intensity in the early wakes of December. Grown men will go at each other like they aren’t making millions of dollars to play a game. Tonight, all the players want is to finish with a victory. That is why this is the best matchup in the NBA.
New York currently has the best record in the East sitting at 15-5. Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Nets are on a four game losing streak that leaves them with an 11-8 record and tied with the Chicago Bulls for fourth place in the East. Without starting center Brook Lopez, the Nets have been struggling to win games. Tonight will not be any different for Brooklyn.
The last time these two teams met, the center position was the matchup to talk about. Brook Lopez led the Nets in scoring with 22 points and added 11 rebounds. Tyson Chandler had his best game of the year as he finished with a season high in points and minutes logging 28 and 10 rebounds in 45 minutes. In that game, the Knicks were without Jason Kidd who has been a huge part of their success this season. Tonight, Brooklyn will likely be a man down with Brook Lopez listed as day-to-day with a foot sprain.
Despite the absence of Lopez, I would bet that Tyson Chandler does not produce the same kind of offensive performance as last time. But New York will not need him to either. If the Knicks simply run their offense and execute the way that they have been doing, they should be fine. Contrary to the beliefs of Charles Barley, the Knicks have a better bench. J.R. Smith is still performing like a sixth man of the year, Steve Novak is the best pure shooter in the game today, and they have veterans to fill out the remainder of their roster, whom make very few mistakes.
On November 26th however, the Knicks reserves did not play that way. Rasheed Wallace was the leading scorer off the bench with six points on 11 attempts and J.R. smith was abnormally ineffective with five points. On the other end, Jerry Stackhouse was about as good as he can be this late in his career. He scored 14 points as he connected on four threes by taking only six shots. The performance of the reserves will be something to look out for.
Of course, the stars will be the ones receiving all the attention. Joe Johnson has been playing better recently as he scored a season high 32 points just two games ago. But, he did follow up that performance with his season low of six points last game against the Milwaukee Bucks. I’m just going to go ahead and say that it will take a big night from Johnson in order for the Nets to win this game. Without Lopez, he simply has to play well. He has to show that he is the best player on the floor, other than Melo and Deron Williams.
As will always be the case when these two teams face off, we can expect Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams to lead the way for their respective squads. But it will likely come down to the role players. Andray Blatche has played exceptional in Lopez’s absence and will have the task of manning the middle for Brooklyn. Raymond Felton also rose to the occasion recently, scoring season highs of 27 points in both of the games that Anthony was sidelined. Blatche and Felton are two role players that will have significant impacts on the outcome of the game.
No matter how this thing goes down or what the result is, tonight’s matchup will definitely be one worth watching.