Deron Williams is having trouble shooting the ball (32% FG) in his last five games as a result of being banged up, but he’s been passing very well, per usual (2.8 to 1 assist to turnover ratio this season) and has knocked down big shots down the stretch of games. The Nets point guard also put brilliant pressure on Portland’s rookie sensation Damian Lillard on Sunday on the offensive end, as the Nets strategized to wear down the smaller, less-experienced guard defensively so he would have less energy conserved for the offensive end.
Brook Lopez has been playing exceptionally at the offensive end, utilizing his length, movement without the ball, post position and touch to average 19 points per game on 55% shooting from the field. Lopez is trying to play tougher at the defensive end, as his 2.5 blocks per game puts him at No. 4 in the NBA so far.
Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans provide rebounding and consistent defense while Marshon Brooks is finally being incorporated into the offense now that he’s healthy again; he looked very solid on Sunday making plays off the bounce in the rhythm of the offense.
Both teams have unique features that will be highlighted tonight in Brooklyn.
The Nets play bigger than the Knicks do, starting the Humphries-Lopez duo up front while the Knicks go quicker with Anthony at the four and Chandler at the five. “When you’ve got a 4 trying to guard him, they can’t do nothing with him,” Raymond Felton told Jared Zwerling of ESPN New York yesterday. “He’s really exposing that and really just trying to make them put their 4-man on Ronnie (Brewer) or J-Kidd, and there goes another advantage. That’s all we’ve been doing — just exploiting that.”
The Nets, on the other hand, will try to go inside to Lopez early and often, as the big man is effective in spurts and normally is utilized often in the beginning of the game. Brooklyn made a concerted effort to get Joe Johnson the ball as he curled to the rim off of screens yesterday against Portland and would be wise to continue that effort tonight against New York to keep J.J. hot.
The Knicks’ ball movement will test the Nets defensive rotations. They’re only averaging 11.2 turnovers per game and they whip the ball around the arc and space the floor as well or better than nearly every team in the NBA right now. Carmelo Anthony has been red hot in his last five contests, shooting over 50% from the field and from distance.
2. Coverage: You can bet the coverage of this game is going to be huge, even by New York standards. Jay-Z and Beyonce will likely be sitting courtside and all of the New York basketball media will be in attendance ready to dissect and analyze the battle of the boroughs. This is the first matchup in what will be a rivalry for years to come so you know the NY media will make this event into a spectacle, as they specialize in doing. TNT will be providing nationally televised coverage tonight, as well.
3. Pride: Carmelo Anthony is from Brooklyn, and to say that he’s excited about returning to his borough with the Knicks would be an understatement.