This was supposed to be one of the most anticipated games of the NBA year with a lot of hatred coming from both teams. Instead, it is between two teams towards the bottom of the eastern conference standings. The Manhattan Knicks (3-13) sit in 14th place in the horrible eastern conference and have lost 9 games in a row. The Brooklyn Nets (5-13) are slightly better, but are coming off a 24-point home loss on Tuesday night. The Knicks have not played since Sunday, when they lost at home to the Pelicans.
I will not be watching this game for the high quality of basketball that will be played, but rather for the rivalry and hatred between the two teams and two fanbases. Bragging rights in New York City are on the line, and in a year when it doesn’t seem like either team is a title contender, bragging rights could have an elevated meaning. Of course, these teams will still meet 3 more times later this year, hopefully when they are playing better basketball, but as someone who has never liked the Knicks one bit, the Nets winning this game will mean a lot to me.
Injuries: There is still no timetable for the many Brooklyn injuries. We know that Andrei Kirilenko, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry are all definitely out, while Deron Williams is doubtful. He has yet to run through a full practice with the team, so I will be shocked if he plays. The Knicks only have one injury, but it is to their most important player, Tyson Chandler.
Tyshawn Taylor vs. Raymond Felton. Advantage: Felton (?)
It’s hard to believe that Tyshawn Taylor will be the starting point guard for the Nets in Battle of the Boroughs on TNT, but that’s what it has come to. He did not look good on Tuesday against Denver. Felton has had a pretty horrible year so far for Manhattan, shooting under 39% and only 25% from 3. He is really not much of a threat on offense and he complains too much about foul calls on defense.
Joe Johnson vs. Iman Shumpert/JR Smith. Advantage: Johnson
Shumpert has been starting recently for the Knicks and is clearly their best defensive player with Chandler out, but he was benched in Manhattan’s last game after arguing with Carmelo Anthony about Anthony’s bad defense. Shumpert has been a disappointment this year and is involved in many trade rumors. Meanwhile, JR Smith doesn’t look like the player that won the 6th man of the year award last year. He is averaging under 12 points, down from 18 last year, and is shooting a really horrible 33% from the field and 61% from the foul line. If the Nets can force him to take bad shots, they will win this matchup. Joe Johnson was the only Net who had a respectable game on Tuesday.
Alan Anderson vs. Carmelo Anthony. Advantage: Anthony
Anthony has also struggled this year in the absence of Chandler. He is only shooting 28% from 3, down from 38% last year. One thing he has done well is rebound. The Nets will have to make sure they box him out. They have had some issues with giving up offensive rebounds recently. Defensively, the Nets need to force Anthony to take low percentage shots, which he often does if he can’t find another way to score. There is no question in my mind he is scoring 30 tonight, but hopefully he will score 30 on close to 30 field goal attempts. Anderson gets the start in place of Paul Pierce. He has been a Knick-killer in the past, and the Nets could definitely use that tonight.
Kevin Garnett vs. Kenyon Martin/Amare Stoudemire. Advantage: Garnett
Heading into the year, Mike Woodson said he would limit both Martin and Stoudemire’s minutes. Instead, because of the Tyson Chandler injury and no backups after signing Chris Smith, the Knicks have been forced to play both Martin and Stoudemire far too much, and neither has been very effective. Martin can still rebound and occasionally block a shot, but this former Net is not the same player he once was. And Stoudemire has looked lost on both offense and defense this year. He has no role on this team. With no offensive threats at power forward for Manhattan, I expect KG to spend some time guarding Carmelo Anthony tonight. He has a well-known history with Anthony, mainly last year with trash talk referring to Anthony’s wife. Hopefully he will be able to get into Anthony’s head. Offensively, maybe Garnett can finally get something going inside with the Knicks having nearly no interior defense with Kenyon Martin out of the game.
Brook Lopez vs. Andrea Bargnani. Advantage: Lopez
Surprisingly, Andrea Bargnani has not been horrible with the Knicks and actually looks better than last year, at least on offense. He is averaging over 15 ppg while shooting 47% from the field. He has consistently been able to make open jump shots this year. However, he is still unable to defend pick-and-rolls at all, so too bad Deron Williams is missing this game. Still, Lopez is the key tonight for the Nets. He is the best player on the court in my opinion and should absolutely dominate on the offensive end. He did not look great on Tuesday against Denver, but that was against a fast team. The Knicks are old and slow, which is more Lopez’s style.
Bold prediction: Brook Lopez will have a 30-10 game. There isn’t a player on Manhattan’s roster who should be able to stop him.
Score prediction: Nets 105, Manhattan 98. The main reason I am predicting this is because I would be too embarrassed to pick the Knicks to snap their 9-game losing streak in Brooklyn. I really don’t have much confidence in this pick and I don’t know who will win this game.