Hobbled Nets streak into the Garden with a chance to bury the Knicks

(AP Photo/Matt Marton)

(AP Photo/Matt Marton)

Hobbled Nets streak into the Garden with a chance to bury the Knicks

Opponent: New York Knicks
Time: 7:00 PM
Location: Madison Square Garden
Watch: YES Network
Listen: WFAN

Despite the fact that the NBA’s two New York City franchises are divided by only the East River, there’s currently not much of a rivalry between the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks. The reason is simple: these two teams have not been Eastern Conference contenders since the Nets made the move to Brooklyn — and even then, most would argue, that statement is tenuous. The franchises were top 4 seeds in the 2013 playoffs, but between bad trades and signings — astoundingly, Andrea Bargnani shows up here for both sides — they’ve come across hard times.

Entering Wednesday’s matchup, both teams sport losing records. The Knicks are — as per usual— embroiled in
drama as Kurt Rambis’ recent rise as the squad’s new defense-teaching coach has inspired apathy from coach Jeff Hornacek, as well as Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose. The Nets are missing Jeremy Lin and have gotten off to a rocky start in a season that’s expected to only get worse.

So, in essence, it’s business as usual for the two snake-bitten New York franchises.

The Knicks assigned Rambis with the arduous task of improving a team defense that ranks 27th in the NBA this season and gives up 109 points per game. Though the team features two defensive studs in Joakim Noah and Kristaps Porzingis protecting the paint, the Knicks have given up over 10 three-pointers a game so far this year. This plays right into the hands of Kenny Atkinson’s motion offense, where we’ve seen anyone in uniform ready to hoist up three-pointers at will. If the Nets have another hot-shooting night from there, they might even like their chances to win on the road.

Offensively, the Knicks feature three talented threats in Anthony, Rose, and Porzingis. Given the Nets’ lack of stoppers and a defense that also ranks in the bottom third of the league, it could come down to whether or not Rondae Hollis-Jefferson can do his part against Anthony; or if the energetic Trevor Booker can out-hustle the impressive Latvian sophomore.

Should the Nets win, they’d send the Knicks to a 2-5 start, an apocalyptic record for a squad that Rose called a “superteam” this summer.

3 Things to Watch for in Nets-Knicks:

1. Will Derrick Rose overwhelm the Nets’ fill-in point guards?

The Nets are missing Lin in what would’ve been his first game in black and white at the Garden and they waived the injured Greivis Vasquez today as he needs ankle surgery again.

Thusly, it will be a combination of Isaiah Whitehead, Sean Kilpatrick, Randy Foye, and (maybe!) Yogi Ferrell to stop the Knicks’ surging point guard. Rose, who is currently averaging 16.3 points and 4.8 assists per game, has looked explosive so far this season and looks to be a tough matchup for the rookie.

For what it’s worth, Whitehead’s best game of his collegiate career came in the Garden, but an away game in the NBA is a much different beast.

2. Can the Nets exploit the Knicks’ weak bench?

The Knicks don’t get much production from their second unit outside of Brandon Jennings. Justin Holiday can be useful some nights, but is largely inconsistent and backup center Kyle O’Quinn offers little else besides toughness and decent on-ball defense. If the Nets’ have a big night from their second unit, led by Justin Hamilton, Joe Harris, and the aforementioned Kilpatrick, it’ll help offset the starters that figure to be outmatched by the Knicks’ talented starting five.

3. Can the Nets even the all time series?

The Knicks hold an ever-so-slight edge over the Nets in the All-Time series at 92-91. Brooklyn will need to rely on its bench on the second night of a back-to-back to overcome what could easily be a winnable or losable game.