The 6-9 Brooklyn Nets take on the 4-14 New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden tonight. Here’s three things to watch in the battle for New York’s destitute basketball soul.
1) The fun.
“We’ve got to get back to having fun out there, (and) looking like we’re having fun out there. Instead of like zombies.”
That was Deron Williams at the team’s practice Monday afternoon, exhaling about Brooklyn’s lack of pace and joviality when it came to playing their professional sport. The Nets could use a shot of adrenaline in the second half: their worst quarter is the third by a significant margin, and the team seems to fall out of their offensive sets shortly after the first quarter.
2) The speed.
Part of the fun is in picking up the pace, but that’s not looking pretty tonight. The Nets and Knicks both rank in the bottom of the NBA in possessions per game, with the Knicks ranking second-to-last, per Nylon Calculus’s possession calculations.
“I would like to get out and run and push it a little more, but some lineups we can’t do that as much,” Williams added Monday, likely alluding to the team’s more deliberate starting lineup. “So we have to conform, we have to execute in the halfcourt, and get good shots, it’s just about getting good shots, screening, doing the little things.”
If the Knicks are accustomed to playing with pace, it might behoove the Nets to run their athletes tonight. Could a youth injection with Markel Brown, Cory Jefferson, and/or Mason Plumlee (the 2013-14 version) spark the Nets tonight?
3) The shots.
It’s an unstoppable force vs. an immovable object tonight… Just not in the good way. The New York Knicks enter tonight’s contest with one of the worst three-point defenses in the league, allowing opponents to make 9.2 three-pointers per game at a 39.2 percent clip. Zach Lowe of Grantland broke down their problems thusly (with video!): “The Knicks are constantly sending needless help from the wrong places at the wrong times, including from shooters stationed along the strong side.”
So the Nets, armed with a bevy of shooters, rank seventh in the league in three-point shooting. But they’ve only his 27.2 percent of their three-pointers over the last eight games, including three games shooting under 19 percent. Against the Knicks’ porous defense, they have a real shot to turn those issues around. Can they convert?
Tipoff at 7:30 P.M. EST.