The Brooklyn Nets came into Madison Square Garden and won their first road game in the Battle of the Boroughs over the New York Knicks on Martin Luther King, Jr, Day, 88-85. The teams have now split their two matchups this season, and are done playing each other unless they face each other in the NBA playoffs, which is a distinct possibility.
The Knicks and Nets are two teams with similar records who are heading in different directions. At 25-16, the Nets have won 11 of 13 under interim head coach PJ Carlesimo. Although I think former head coach Avery Johnson was fired prematurely, it is hard to argue that it was the right decision, as the team has responded on the court with quality wins.
Small forward Gerald Wallace talked about the differences under their interim coach. “I think the style of play is different. We don’t iso(late) as much. We are more in transition. Guys are pushing and attacking the rim. The offense is changing a little bit. I think guys are more confident in their shot.” Point guard Deron Williams discussed it as well. “It’s a different coaching style, a different voice, and guys are responding well. He is different than a lot of coaches I have played for…his style and his sense of humor. We are playing well now and that is the most important thing.”
The New York Knicks, on the other hand, have been heading in the opposite direction. After a high-water mark that saw them at 19-6, the Knicks are only 6-7 in their last 13 games. Injuries have played a part in that, with Carmelo Anthony, Marcus Camby, Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Rasheed Wallace missing some of those 13 games. I also think that the league has adjusted to the Knicks style of play. Consequently, when teams contest the three pointer or force the Knicks off the three-point line, as the Nets did Monday, the Knicks may not win.
The Knicks are also one of the worst rebounding teams in the league, ranked 27 out of 30 NBA teams. Stoudemire discussed this after the game. “Camby and Rasheed are definitely two quality rebounders in this league. We definitely need them.” The Knicks need their injured big men back, but they also need Stoudemire, who hasn’t been a great rebounder for his career, to attack the offensive and defensive boards more.
The road ahead isn’t easy for either team, as both face tough opponents. The Knicks play the Celtics in Boston on Thursday in a much anticipated game after Carmelo Anthony’s antics with Kevin Garnett when the teams last met. After, the Knicks play a road-home back-to-back, playing the 76ers in Philadelphia Saturday and the Atlanta Hawks at Madison Square Garden Sunday.
The Nets, meanwhile, have three straight road games, facing the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday, the Memphis Grizzlies Friday and the Houston Rockets Saturday. One thing that most fans in the area can say, whether you are a New York Knicks fan or a Brooklyn Nets fan, with two NBA teams in the city, New Yorkers are the unanimous winners, and the four games at Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden have shown that.