Tonight, the Brooklyn Nets (13-11) will take the subway a couple of stops uptown to Madison Square Garden to battle their cross-town rival the Manhattan Knicks (18-6) in Clash of the Boroughs III. The Knicks currently hold a 5-game lead over Brooklyn for first place in the Atlantic Division. The Knicks are still in first place in the eastern conference, while the Nets are in 6th.
Both teams are coming off of tough home losses. Last night, the Nets blew a 13-point halftime lead and lost to the Utah Jazz by 2. Gerald Wallace missed what would have been a game-winning 3 and Reggie Evans missed a tip-in which would have tied the game at the buzzer. The Nets have only won 2 of their last 9 games overall and have lost 2 straight.
The Knicks had their first home loss of the season on Monday against Jeremy Lin and the Houston Rockets. That loss snapped a 4-game winning streak for Manhattan. They now are 10-1 at home and the Nets will hope to make it 10-2 tonight.
One big question for Nets fans is how much of the MSG crowd will be wearing black and white? At Barclays Center, there have been many Knicks fans when the two teams have played. Although there will definitely not be nearly as many Knicks fans in Manhattan tonight, it will be interesting to see if the Nets can maybe represent 10% of the crowd support.
Injuries: Brooklyn’s only injury right now is Jerry Stackhouse. He has missed the last 3 games and will be out tonight. The Knicks, on the other hand, are in trouble. Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace are likely out with various old-person injuries. Steve Novak is doubtful for tonight’s game with the flu. Carmelo Anthony is a game-time decision. I would say that there is a slightly better than 50% chance that he plays, but we will see. If he cannot play, the Knicks’ only offense will be coming from 3-pointers and the Nets have had great 3-point defense for the most part this season. Amare Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert both have yet to play this season.
Deron Williams vs. Jason Kidd. Advantage: Williams
Jason Kidd’s shooting numbers have cooled off a bit since the last time the Nets saw him, but he is still shooting career highs in field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and 3-point percentage. I think Deron Williams is going to have a big, big game. The Knicks have lots of injuries and I think he will tear apart their backcourt just like he did last year against Jeremy Lin. He likes playing against Manhattan on the big stage on ESPN and I think he will show up in a big way tonight, maybe going for 30+.
Joe Johnson vs. Raymond Felton. Advantage: Johnson
Raymond Felton has had a couple of terrible games against the Nets this season, shooting a combined 6-31 from the field. Joe Johnson has played him very tough on defense, which is not surprising because of Johnson’s height advantage. If Carmelo Anthony cannot play, expect tons and tons of shots from Felton, which the Nets will be very happy with. In Joe Johnson’s last five games, he appears to have gotten out of his slump by averaging over 20 ppg. The question for Joe will be if he can be a contributor throughout the game and not just in one or two quarters.
Gerald Wallace vs. Ronnie Brewer. Advantage: Wallace
Brewer has not been much of a factor for the Knicks recently. Despite starting each of the last seven games for Manhattan, he has scored a total of 19 points in those games. He is also shooting under 45% from the foul line. Hopefully the Nets will not need Gerald Wallace tonight to help bring them back into a game. He should score around 10 points and he will be guarding Carmelo if he plays.
Kris Humphries vs. Carmelo Anthony/Chris Copeland. Advantage: Anthony/Copeland
If Carmelo Anthony plays, Kris Humphries will not be guarding him. If Anthony plays, the key for the Nets will be stopping him, or at least forcing him to take bad shots, which he loves doing. Hopefully if he plays, he will not be at full strength on his ankle and will not have as quick a first step as he usually has. If Anthony cannot play, Chris Copeland will likely start. Copeland has started the last two games that Carmelo has been out. In the Knicks’ last game against Houston, Copeland had a game high 29 points, although most of those points came in garbage time against a terrible Houston defense. Copeland is not as bad as you may think, but the Nets should still be able to stop him.
Brook Lopez vs. Tyson Chandler. Advantage: Lopez
Stopping Tyson Chandler will be the key for the Nets winning this game, especially if Carmelo Anthony does not play. If he does not play, the Knicks will be taking lots an lots of 3’s, meaning opportunities for offensive rebounds on misses. It will be Brook Lopez’s job to box out Chandler and prevent the Knicks from getting second chance points. In the second half against Utah yesterday, the Nets did a terrible job on the defensive glass, which is the main reason they lost the game. If they can keep Tyson Chandler to under 5 offensive rebounds, they will be in a good position to win this game.
Prediction: Nets 97, Knicks 90.
The Nets seem to like playing the Knicks, and they would like nothing more than beating them on their home floor in Manhattan. The Knicks have too many injuries, and even if Carmelo Anthony plays, he won’t be at full strength. Without Carmelo, the Knicks’ offense will struggle to score all night, especially in the paint and the Nets will win this game.