The Brooklyn Nets (24-16) will face the Manhattan Knicks (25-13) for the fourth and final time this season Monday afternoon at Madison Square Garden. The Nets are 1-2 against the Knicks this year and have lost their last 2 games against them, but the Nets are playing much better than the Knicks right now. Since P.J. Carlesimo has taken over, Brooklyn is 10-2 and has only lost once in the month of January. The Knicks, meanwhile, have lost 5 of their past 9 and have looked vulnerable at home recently, losing 2 of 3.
The key to this game for Brooklyn will be limiting Carmelo Anthony to only bad, difficult shots. In the 3 previous games between these teams this year, Anthony has brought his A-game and has been the main reason why Manhattan has won 2 of the 3 games. Luckily, the Nets will be at full strength for this game and Gerald Wallace and Keith Bogans will hopefully be able to limit Anthony.
Even though this is only the Nets’ 41st game of the season (the midway point of the season), it will be their final matchup against the Knicks in the regular season. That means that bragging rights in New York will be on the line in this game possibly until next season unless the teams meet in the playoffs (definitely a possibility). This game is also important for other reasons. If Brooklyn wins, they will be within 1 game of Manhattan. Additionally, they will pull even with the Knicks in the season series with a win. This means that if the teams are tied at the end of the season, the Knicks will not automatically win the division. These two teams do not like each other at all and this will be a very fun game to watch.
Injuries: Brooklyn has no significant injuries. Manhattan has plenty. Marcus Camby, Rasheed Wallace, and Raymond Felton are all out. Iman Shumpert and Amare Stoudemire are still on minute restrictions and probably will not be able to play much more than 20 minutes. This is what happens when you put together the oldest team in NBA history.
Deron Williams vs. Jason Kidd. Advantage: Williams
Jason Kidd has seriously cooled off since his unbelievably hot start to the season when he was shooting over 50% from 3. His 3-point percentage now is 42% and sinking. In his last 4 games, Kidd is 4-17 from 3 and has not scored more than 8 points. In fact, he has only scored in double-digits once so far this month. However, Kidd always seems to find ways to hit big shots to beat the Nets. Deron Williams has cooled off a little bit the last two games against Atlanta, but luckily for him, he will be guarding Kidd and Pablo Prigioni instead of the lightning quick Jeff Teague and Devin Harris as he had to do against the Hawks. Deron has also gotten two days of rest since his last game and should be ready to go tonight. I think he will have a big game.
Joe Johnson vs. Iman Shumpert. Advantage: Johnson
Shumpert played his first game of the season on Thursday in London and had 8 points in 15 minutes. He is considered a very good defensive player, but he is still not quite at 100% and probably won’t play very much again tonight. J.R. Smith will get more playing time than Shumpert. Smith is a streaky shooter who can score either 30 points or 5 points. He is not a very good defensive player and Joe Johnson should be able to get his open looks.
Gerald Wallace vs. Carmelo Anthony. Advantage: Anthony
There is no denying it. Carmelo Anthony has burned the Nets this year. Gerald Wallace will get another chance to slow him down tonight and I anticipate him containing Carmelo better than he has in the past. Wallace has been banged up for most of the season but with 2 days off, he should be back at full strength. One of the keys to the game will be Wallace’s defense on Anthony.
Reggie Evans vs. Chris Copeland. Advantage: Evans
Copeland has surprised many people by moving from the 15th man on the Knicks’ roster in training camp to a starter now. He is a pretty good scorer and has scored over 20 points 3 times this year. Still, Reggie Evans will be able to abuse him on the boards and this is a game that I can see Reggie grabbing 20 rebounds again as he did in the Nets’ last game on Friday. The Knicks’ only good rebounder is Tyson Chandler and Reggie should have a field day. Amare Stoudemire will also get about 20 minutes at power forward for Manhattan, but he has not been very effective this year.
Brook Lopez vs. Tyson Chandler. Advantage: Lopez
This is a very important game for both these players’ all-star chances. Both of them are competing for possibly the last spot on the all-star roster, and this game could sway many votes. Chandler is thought of one of the best defensive and rebounding centers in the NBA and has grabbed at least 12 rebounds in his last 7 games. However, many consider Brook Lopez to be the top offensive center in the league and is expected to score 20 points every night. A key for Lopez will be preventing Chandler’s tip-outs on offensive rebounds. This is one thing that Chandler does very well and it leads to many second chances for Manhattan.
Prediction: Nets 94, Knicks 90.
Most games between the Nets and Knicks are close and this one will be no exception. Since the last game between these teams, Brooklyn and Manhattan have went in opposite directions and the Nets are playing much better right now. Brooklyn will win this game to even up their season series with the Knicks and climb within 1 game of their crosstown rivals.