The Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks could not be trending much differently as they meet Friday at Barclays Center for their 4th and final game of the year.
In one of those facts that now seems stranger than fiction, the Brooklyn Nets awoke on the morning of Dec. 6 to find themselves a half-game behind the New York Knicks and in 12th place in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Nets had just lost their eighth straight game, coughing up a 23-point lead in the fourth quarter of a grueling 114-112 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder to fall to 8-18 on the season. The Knicks, idle the previous evening, were at 8-17.
One would be hard-pressed to find two teams that have sprinted in opposite directions as far and as fast since then as have the Nets and Knicks.
Brooklyn (26-23) has won 18 of 23 games since then to climb solidly into the playoff hunt in the East, currently in sixth with a four-game lead over the ninth-place Detroit Pistons, and comes into Friday night’s matchup with the Knicks riding a five-game winning streak.
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New York (10-36) has lost 19 of 21 games in that same span and comes into Friday night’s game with a stretch of seven consecutive losses.
While the Nets are 9-2 in January, the Knicks are just 1-8 in the New Year.
Brooklyn will look to clinch the season series from New York with a win Friday after taking two of the first three meetings. It would be the first time the Nets beat the Knicks in a season series since sweeping New York in 2014-15.
The teams split four games in both 2015-16 and 2016-17 before New York swept all four meetings last season.
The Knicks are a bit of a mess of late in their first season under head coach David Fizdale. Kristaps Porzingis has not played this season and may not return at all in 2018-19 after tearing an ACL last February.
The Knicks have had a fluid rotation this season, with 14 different players starting at least two games. Only Noah Vonleh, a journeyman forward, has played in all 46 New York games this season.
If the Nets don’t have a lot of sympathy for the plight of their Manhattan neighbor, it’s because Brooklyn has been playing through injuries all season and has not had the entire roster healthy for even one game in 2018-19.
Spencer Dinwiddie is questionable with a right thumb injury, while Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is also questionable after straining his left shoulder in Wednesday night’s win over the Orlando Magic. Dinwiddie is the only Net to have played in every game this season.
Here are three things to watch as the Nets and Knicks tangle in another Battle of the Boroughs at Barclays Center.