Sometimes, it feels like it was just yesterday when the Brooklyn Nets, led by their big three of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden, were considered serious contenders and had people debating how many championships they’d win while the Knicks were looking up hoping to land a star and maybe become a competent franchise. Well, oddly enough, we sit here today and the Nets and Knicks have kind of swapped roles.
The Knicks, led by two-time All-Star Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson--who should be making his first All-Star appearance this season--are still a piece or two away from being real threats to win a chip but are closer to it than they have been in a very long time, and certainly closer than the Nets are now. No need to mention the Knicks still have the draft capital to retool or trade for a big-name star to push them over the top.
Meanwhile, Brooklyn finds itself potentially star-less due to Mikal Bridges’ plateaued development and somewhat direction-less, much like the Knicks were for the better half of the last two decades. It’s somehow gotten worse as the season has gone on as the Nets are currently in the midst of a brutal 20-game stretch that has seen them go 5-15 with two of those wins coming against the lowly Pistons. However, the Nets can still salvage the season by selling off some of it’s veteran players in an attempt to speed up their rebuild but with only a few players seeming like keepers, and the looming mystery that is Ben Simmons, this team has more questions to answer than ever.
So... the Knicks should be able to grab an easy win, right? They are obviously the better team, both statistically and on paper, and playing at Brooklyn is as much of a home game as a road game can feel like. But, as we’ve unfortunately witnessed earlier this season, this Knicks team still has plenty of holes and weaknesses, one of them being their tendency to play down to competition.
We saw them drop a game to a Luka Doncic-less Mavericks team, a Fanz Wagner-less Magic team, and struggle to defeat a Memphis Grizzlies sans most of its starters and the awful Washington Wizards. That being said, the Knicks have been pretty successful against the post-Durant/Irving Nets, winning by an average of 20.3 points per game over their last three meetings.
Look for Brunson, who has scored 39 or more in two of those three games, and is averaging 30.5 PPG over his last eight games to continue the hot streak he’s been on with another big game tonight against Bridges, who was a college teammate of his in Villanova. Also, keep an eye on Isaiah Hartenstein’s status. He is currently listed as a game-time-decision so if he is out, we’ll likely see a lot more of Precious Achiuwa and Jericho Sims, which could make things tougher for the Knicks, and a bit easier for the Nets to deal with New York in the paint.
Knicks win, 116-108.
Who: New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets
When: 7:30 pm EST, Tuesday, January 23, 2024
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY