The Brooklyn Nets (11-8) close out a 4-game home stand tonight when they face the first place Manhattan Knicks (15-5) at Barclays Center for Battle of the Boroughs II. The Nets are mired in a 4-game losing streak and are 1-4 since Brook Lopez’s injury against Boston nearly two weeks ago. The Knicks are 6-1 since losing to Brooklyn on November 26th and are coming off of an unimpressive home win over Denver on Sunday.
Because of the Nets’ recent losing streak they have fallen 3.5 games behind the Knicks for the division and eastern conference lead. After beating the Knicks on November 26th, the teams were tied atop the division. It is still very early in the season and the Nets have plenty of time to catch Manhattan.
As always, when these two teams meet up, it is a big game. With the Nets recent struggles, this game could serve as a wake-up call to play better. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN, the Nets’ first appearance on the popular sports network. The first Battle of the Boroughs was on TNT. The Nets have been sleepwalking in recent games, and it is time for them to wake up.
Injuries: Brook Lopez is a game-time decision for Brooklyn. He has missed the Nets’ last 5 games and they are 1-4 in that time. I have a strong feeling that he will play tonight. Even though Avery Johnson has said that Lopez is unlikely, I think he is trying to convince the Knicks that Lopez won’t play so that they will not prepare for him. He had a full practice yesterday and as long as he doesn’t suffer a setback, I think he will be good to go. Manhattan has a couple of small injuries as expected when you have a team as old as they are. Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace did not play in their last game because of foot injuries. Who knows if they will play tonight. Iman Shumpert and Amare Stoudemire are also still injured.
Deron Williams vs. Jason Kidd. Advantage: Williams
Jason Kidd did not play in the first Battle of the Boroughs because of a small old-person injury. He is back now and is actually playing pretty well this season. The biggest asset that he brings is his veteran leadership and his smarts. However, it is only a matter of time before Carmelo Anthony gets mad at him for some bad reason and it screws up the chemistry. Deron Williams will need to step up his game tonight after a couple of sub-par performances against Golden State and Milwaukee. The Knicks have a small, old, injury-prone backcourt and Deron needs to take advantage of it. Hopefully he will find his shooting stroke as he did in the Oklahoma City game.
Joe Johnson vs. Raymond Felton. Advantage: Johnson
Raymond Felton is a Carmelo wannabe. Anthony recently missed two games with a finger injury and Felton tried to step up in his place. In Saturday’s loss to Chicago, Felton shot a very Carmelo-like 9-30 from the field. In Felton’s first game against the Nets this season, he shot 3-19 mostly due to Joe Johnson’s shutdown defense. Johnson has a major, major size advantage in this matchup and should hold Felton in check again. The question will be if JJ can get hot on offense. He had his best game of the season on Friday against Golden State but didn’t show up on Sunday against Milwaukee. I have a feeling this will be a very good game for Johnson, but he has been very unpredictable this season.
Gerald Wallace vs. Ronnie Brewer. Advantage: Wallace
Wallace was the player of the game on Sunday and he brought the Nets back into the game after being down by nearly 30 points. He has played with lots of energy recently and he is playing angry, which is a great sign for the Nets. He will likely be guarding Carmelo Anthony tonight, and although he won’t be able to shut Carmelo down, he will keep him in check, forcing Carmelo into taking bad shots, which he loves to take. Ronnie Brewer is a “defensive specialist”, similar to former New Jersey Nets greats Trenton Hassel, Stephen Graham, and Deshawn Stevenson. Ok, maybe he’s a little bit better than those players, but not much. He is shooting under 50% from the foul line this season.
Kris Humphries/Reggie Evans vs. Carmelo Anthony. Advantage: Anthony
It will be interesting to see who starts tonight at power forward for the Nets. Reggie made his first start of the season on Sunday, but that didn’t go well for the Nets. My guess is that if Lopez starts, Humphries will start, and if Blatche starts, Evans will start. Either way, neither of these players will be guarding Carmelo Anthony. Expect Carmelo to score between 30-35 points on 20-25 shots. The Nets will take that any day.
Brook Lopez/Andray Blatche vs. Tyson Chandler. Advantage: Chandler
As I said earlier, I have a feeling that Lopez will play tonight, but there is still a good chance that he won’t. Blatche has filled in valiantly in Brook’s absence, but the bench really needs him for his offense. In the first Battle of the Boroughs, I couldn’t be more impressed with Tyson Chandler. I will not say this about many Knicks players, but I love Tyson Chandler. He is great. He had a career high 28 points in his first game vs. the Nets this season and he brings so much to the defense and rebounding games. Without Chandler, the Knicks would be under .500. I’m not kidding. Hopefully he gets into foul trouble early tonight.
Prediction: Nets 107, Knicks 105.
This will be another New York classic where the Brooklyn Nets come out on top. The Nets will snap their season high 4-game losing streak and feel good as they head out on the road. They will also sweep the Knicks in Brooklyn this year. I am excited to see another Nets win.