The Brooklyn Nets (14-6) stand alone atop the Eastern Conference, yet still have kinks to iron out. The New York Knicks (11-9) are an up-and-down club that is trying to find a formula for consistent play.
Both teams were burned by the Phoenix Suns recently. No shame in that. Powered by their young core and utility man Alec Burks, the Knicks went on to defeather a streaking Hawks team. The Nets still need to cleanse their palate after the Phoenix loss. On Tuesday, the city’s two basketball teams will clash over bragging rights at the Barclays Center.
Intrigued? Tip-off’s at 7:30 PM, hipsters.
WHAT’S GOOD IN BROOKLYN?
Brooklyn has won seven of their last 10. Since this is essentially a home game for both, it might be a moot point that each team plays better on the road (BRK 6-4 home, 8-2 away; NYK 5-6, 6-3).
Somewhat worrying for Nets fans is that their team is 7-0 against below-500 opponents, but 7-6 against the rest. Brooklyn’s offensive rating of 110 is eleventh in the league; their 106 defensive rating ranks eighth. Comparatively, New York has slipped a bit, now sporting a 108.4 offensive rating for sixteenth in the league, and a 108.2 defensive rating for seventeenth.
PF Kevin Durant leads the league in points per game (28.6); is second in total points (544), 2-pt field goals (161), total field goals (198); is fifth in free throws (111); sixth in player efficiency (27.2) and win shares (3.4); and…yeah, my eyes glossed over, too. Their other superstar, PG James Harden, is second in assists per game (7.4), fourth in total assists (188) and free throws (122), etc. He’s averaging 20.3 points, too. Not bad for a guy who’s dealt with hamstring issues this season.
Some say Blake Griffin is washed. Inaccurate! He’s washed, dried, and ready for folding. He was Brooklyn’s starting center but has slipped from the rotation. Journeyman LaMarcus Aldridge was promoted in his stead. Third-string Nicolas Claxton is out for another week or so with an illness. If there’s a significant concern for the Nets, it is at the center position. More on that below.
On Saturday, head coach Tom Thibodeau started Burks in place of Kemba Walker (rest) and Derrick Rose (ankle). The substitution yielded refreshing results. AB collected 23 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and played capable defense. The superior play against a conference-finals team was the last evidence needed to demote Kemba. Thibs is making the change. Burks is your starting point guard.
Tom Thibodeau says, at the moment, PG Kemba Walker is not part of the NYK rotation. Says he views Walker as a starter & doesn’t see good fit for Walker off bench. “I have great respect for who Kemba is as a person… & all he's accomplished in this league." pic.twitter.com/O4X3CItepg— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) November 29, 2021
Burks and Immanuel Quickley will have to play tough defense to contain Harden, who was harassed into seven turnovers by Phoenix. Let’s hope for some Quentin Grimes’ time with Rose still day-to-day (ankle).
SF DeAndre’ Bembry has per-game averages of less than six points and one trey in about 20 minutes of usage. Yet, in an extended run against Phoenix, he finished with a season-high 18 points on 9-11 from the field. He’s a stout defender, too. Don’t sleep on him, RJ Barrett (who might not play due to a non-COVID illness).
There should be special rules for Durant. For KD, each basic bucket should be worth one point. Anything beyond the arc is two. He can make a half-court shot for three points but then has to sit for five minutes. Full court shot? Free tacos for everybody!
Expect Mitchell Robinson to start against LaMarcus Aldridge (or maybe not).
Mitchell Robinson (Non CoVid illness) is questionable for tonight’s game at Brooklyn.— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) November 30, 2021
The big Net scored against Phoenix (18 pts on 8-12), but the Suns’ offense hunted him with lots of switches and exploited his diminished defense. The Knicks must do the same. With Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson still listed as day-to-day, I’m craving some Jericho Sims action. You, too?
Net rhymes with forget, as in, “You can forget about New York fans ever liking you better than the Knicks, Brooklyn!” (Said in my awful Tracy Morgan impression.) This will be a tough contest, but if the Knicks team that beat the Hawks shows up tonight: buena suerte, Nets.
To the victor go the bragging rights. For one night, at least.
Barclays Center. 7:30 PM. Congratulations AB. Go Knicks!