As the New York Knickerbockers and the Brooklyn Nets get set for their showdown tonight at the Barclays Center, they’re surely aware the meaning of this game transcends the sport; the first matchup in what will surely be a long rivalry has all the ingredients to be a dandy:
1. Two good teams: Instead of an uncertain opening night tilt on October 29th, we have teams who we know have confidence in themselves as they head toward Christmas and the New Year.
The Knicks (9-3) have been clicking all season long, despite their back-to-back losses against the O,J. Mayo’s (I mean Dallas Mavericks) and Houston Rockets. New York still scored the ball in their last two losses, but they lost it on the defensive end as the Mavs scored 114 and the Rockets dropped 131.
On Sunday against Detroit, the Knicks let up 100 points, but they overcame the Pistons with their timely defensive disruptions (especially in the first half), shooting and ball movement. Carmelo Anthony began the game 5-for-5 from the field and finished with 29 points, but he had his third straight game of 6+ turnovers, the result of trying to overpass to keep the ball moving and to make plays for his team (the type of turnovers you can’t be all that upset with, but Melo has to learn from).
Raymond Felton has provided the right combination of toughness, timely forays to the rim, pull-up jumpers and ball-movement to keep the Knicks aggressive.
Jason Kidd is turning into a spot-up shooter who guards efficiently and moves the ball precisely and with purpose at the offensive end; his patience and vision have been clutch for the Knicks’ turnaround both on the court and in the locker room.
J.R. Smith continues to prove that he’s taking this season more seriously than he has in years past. He had 15 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists yesterday against the Pistons, taking shots within the offense and really hitting the defensive glass. Steve Novak’s shooting has to be accounted for at all times while Ronnie Brewer and Pablo Prigioni provide their own unique efforts to help the Knicks at both ends. And of course, Tyson Chandler and Rasheed Wallace have been manning the interior with Amar’e Stoudemire out indefinitely and Marcus Camby attempting to get back in shape and rhythm after missing training camp.
The Nets (8-4) have finally received increased production from their new, highly paid shooting guard Joe Johnson, which helped their cause greatly against the Clippers (19 points) and Blazers (21 points) on Friday and Sunday, respectively.