It was a cool and clear night as the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks suited up for their final Battle of the Boroughs this season. Last time they played, in December, the Knicks held an 8-19 record while the Nets boasted an elite tally of 10-18. Since then, the Nets have been on one of the hottest streaks in the entire league, winning 16 games; while the Knicks have only won twice in that same span of time. One could say that the rivalry this season has been slightly one-sided, finally in the Nets’ favor.
Of course, one wouldn’t have known that had they tuned in to the first quarter of this game.
D’Angelo Russell, recent national media darling, ran into early foul trouble and sat on the bench for much of the first half. Without Spencer Dinwiddie, who is out with torn ligaments in his right thumb, the Nets’ offense struggled more than usual to consistently put points on the board.
The lackluster defense being played didn’t help Brooklyn’s cause. The Knicks faced little-to-no resistance when attacking the basket. The few times that the Nets did close out on open shooters, they looked as though they were moving through molasses. It was lack of effort combined with increased minutes given to bench players, some of whom may not be fully comfortable in their larger roles.
The second quarter saw the Nets awaken from their stupor to put up some resistance. It wasn’t pretty, but they ended the first half tied at 60-60.
After the break, Brooklyn cleaned up their play slightly by taking better care of the ball and communicating more clearly on defense. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to give them the edge against the other team from New York.
To be perfectly honest, this game wasn’t too exciting. It was slow and it often seemed as if the referees made themselves a central part of the game. It was so slow that the Nets set a record for free throws attempted at Barclays Center. Mitch Creek, the Nets’ new 10-day-contract signee, made his debut where he hit 1-of-2 free throws and was then subbed out. Knicks and Nets fans bizarrely joined forces to chant “We want Kanter!” Slow news day, indeed.
But, ultimately, a win is a win. Brooklyn walks away as the victor of the Battle of the Boroughs and takes the season series over the Knicks for the first time since the 2014-15 season. The Nets’ next stop is at Boston for the third Monday in a row, and they’ll need a better showing than this to walk away with the same result.
D’Angelo Russell Point Guard
12 PTS, 5-11 FG, 2-8 3PT, 3 REB, 4 AST, 4 TO
D’Angelo Russell had a ‘meh’ night — he wasn’t terrible, but he was far from great.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) January 26, 2019
Russell only played 24 minutes this game, due mostly to the three fouls he had accumulated 14 seconds into the second quarter. He struggled to create his own offense but still managed to make his presence felt through smooth ball movement. It was a little underwhelming for a player having an All-Star caliber season, the very same one who just lost his main competition for ball-handling duties in Dinwiddie. Still, there’s always next game.
Theo Pinson Small Forward
19 PTS, 5-11 FG, 3-5 3PT, 8 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL, 3 TO
Theo Pinson finally showed why Kenny Atkinson has so much faith in him.
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) January 26, 2019
Nets fans finally got a glimpse of why the coaching staff is so high on Pinson. He was all over the court but in a good way! His shot looked sharp as he set a career-high in points and led the Nets in plus-minus on a night where they were desperate for production. Hopefully, this game was the beginning of a higher standard of play for Pinson, not just an anomaly.
Ed Davis Center
17 PTS, 6-8 FG, 7 OREB, 16 REB, 3 AST, 1 BLK
On a night where the Nets struggled to show a good defensive effort, Ed Davis was able to stop the bleeding.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) January 26, 2019
Davis posted his third double-double of the season and it couldn’t have come at a better time. He stepped up to fill the holes that riddled Brooklyn’s defense. During the second half, the offense even ran through Davis for a time as they worked the ball inside to create space for the ice-cold shooters.
Shabazz Napier Point Guard
18 PTS, 3-13 FG, 1-6 3PT, 2 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 2 TO
Shabazz Napier showed some growing pains as he took over Spencer Dinwiddie’s role as primary ballhandler for the second unit.
It wasn’t surprising, but it was something that the team will have to adjust to in Dinwiddie’s absence. The biggest observable difference is in the court vision. There were many passes that Napier either didn’t see or didn’t care to attempt to make that Dinwiddie wouldn’t have hesitated on.
Napier is much more likely to look to create for himself first and distribute second. Tonight, that led to a lot of wasted possessions as he failed to find efficiency from the floor. Still, he was able to make up for it by being tenacious on his drives and getting to the free throw line many, many times throughout the contest.