For the first time this season, the New York Knicks will take on the Brooklyn Nets for a semi-away game at Barclays. And while, the Knicks, who come into tonight’s game as a fifth seed, and the Nets, who are a a ninth seed, seem like they are miles apart, they are only two games apart. Both teams currently find themselves right in the thick of the very crowded middle third of the Eastern Conference, both seated below the elite teams like the Celtics, Bucks, and Sixers, but also clearly ahead of the struggling bottom dwellers made up of teams like the Pistons, Wizards and Hornets. All of that adds up to make this not only an inner-city rivalry game but a matchup that could potentially have some seeding implications down the line for both teams.
But take a look at the schedule ahead for both squads and this game starts to look more and more important for the Knicks. New York is dealing with the Mitchell Robinson injury making every game a tough test but after tonight, they’ll have a string of games against some of the best teams in the league, and will have games against the Bucks twice, the Thunder, the Magic, and then the Timberwolves. Meanwhile, a loss tonight might not hurt the Nets as much as they’ll have the opportunity to bounce back against much lesser opponents in the near future. In their next five games, they’ll face off against the Pistons twice and the Wizards once, allowing them to have a bit of breathing room going forward.
So what will it take for the Knicks to come away with a much-needed victory against a team, who on paper, they should beat? Well, there are a few things the Knicks will have to focus on, with the first one being rebounding. As good as the Knicks have been at rebounding for much of the season, without the aforementioned Robinson, they just aren’t as dominant as they once were there. And unfortunately for the Knicks, who currently rank seventh in the league in rebounds per game, the Nets come into tonight’s contest second in the league in rebounds per game. With both the Knicks and the Nets ranking 10th, and 11th, respectively in offensive rating, this game may ultimately come down to who can grab the most boards.
Another thing New York will have to keep an eye on is the three-point shooting. The Nets are second in the league in three-point percentage and fifth in the league in three-pointers made per game, which both outrank the Knicks, who rank sixth in three-point percentage and ninth in three-pointers made per game. If the Knicks and Nets have similar rebounding numbers tonight, the deciding factor could be the two teams’ efficiency and proficiency from outside. And because of that, it will be crucial to keep an eye on how Jalen Brunson, whose win/loss splits from beyond the arc has been eyepopping, shoots from three tonight.
- Spencer Dinwiddie G
- Cam Thomas G
- Mikal Bridges F
- Cam Johnson F
- Nic Claxton C
New York Knicks
- Jalen Brunson G
- Donte DiVincenzo G
- RJ Barrett F
- Julius Randle F
- Taj Gibson C
Brooklyn is having a very solid year and look like they are on their way to outperforming a lot of people’s predictions and projections. Mikal Bridges is a very good two-way player, Cam Johnson and Nic Claxton are two very capable guys who are really good at their jobs, Cam Thomas, despite having very clear flaws in his game, is a guy who is capable of going off for 30+ points on any given night, and they have a roster that seems to play hard and play together. That being said, the Knicks, despite being hobbled, showed against the Lakers on Monday night, that they are still a very good team as well. They bought in defensively for much of the night, Julius Randle, Immanuel Quickley, and Jalen Brunson all had their moments, and Isaiah Hartenstein continues to be the unsung hero of this team. I’m sure the Nets will put up a hell of a fight, but I think the Knicks just have too much top-end talent and will have a tough time matching up with Randle if he continues to play as physically as he has as of late. Additionally, the Knicks have actually looked better offensively since Robinson’s injury, and seeing as the Nets currently rank 21st in defensive rating, the Knicks have a shot at continuing that trend. As is often the case with the Knicks, it may not be pretty, and it may not be very convincing, but I predict them to take this very important game before back-to-back games against the Bucks. Knicks win, 125-118.
Who: New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets
When: 7:30 pm EST, Wednesday, Dec. 20
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
Watch: MSG Network, YES Network