The Brooklyn Game goes roundtable-style to break down today's final Nets-Knicks matchup.
1: What's today's key matchup?
Mark Ginocchio: The Nets perimeter defense versus the Knicks three-point shooters. While the Knicks are "only" shooting 37 percent from three in January, that's still they're bread and butter in terms of offense. Bogans, Wallace, Brooks, D-Will and JJ need to keep an eye of the Knicks' shooters, especially if they over-commit with doubles on Anthony.
Justin DeFeo: Nets defense of the pick and roll. The last time these teams played Brook Lopez's pedestrian approach to pick and roll coverage allowed the Knicks and Tyson Chandler to temporally take the lob city tag from the Clippers. The Nets will need to address this if they want to stand a chance in Manhattan.
John Hood: MarShon Brooks against J.R. Smith. Brooks, who has not been a factor in the previous matchups, is thriving since P.J. Carlesimo took over, averaging 19.4 points per 36 minutes on 50% shooting. Smith and Brooks are go-to wing scorers when their respective team’s best players rest, and whoever can take the load off of the starters on offense will give their team the edge.
Benjamin Nadeau: Nets versus the pick and roll offense. Yes, Crash needs to give Carmelo a tough time, and yes, Deron needs to take advantage of the older Kidd/Prigioni, but this game will depend on defense. Last time these two teams played, the Knicks abused Brooklyn with the Tyson Chandler pick-and-roll. Felton is out, but Kidd has killed the Nets this year. Nobody has run the pick-and-roll as well as the Knicks this year and stopping them here has to be a huge goal. Stop the oops, win the game.
Max Weisberg: Andray Blatche vs. Amar'e Stoudemire. This is the first time that this matchup will take place: two key bench players who love to isolate. Chances are that this matchup will show up multiple times throughout the game, and with two very evenly matched starting units, the competition among benches, this particular matchup could be a game-breaker. Warning: this matchup will be isolation heavy with little defense played. Viewer discretion is advised.
Victory: The Nets will win if…
DeFeo: They can limit the Knicks' uncontested field goals. Whether that's reasonably containing Melo or protecting the rim against Chandler lobs, the Nets need the Knicks to work for their points on every trip.
Ginocchio: They defend the perimeter and keep the one-man lob city parade in Tyson Chandler limited. Otherwise, I think they will score enough to win.
Hood: Andray Blatche repeats his play from the second matchup. Brook Lopez is a handful on offense, and the Knicks will look to capitalize and make a run when he is on the bench. If Blatche can’t give the Knicks a break on the inside then the Nets should take this game with ease.
Nadeau: Brook Lopez gets the ball. Simple? Yes. Truth? Yes. Lopez is 4th in the league in player efficiency rating, but often seems like the third or fourth option on the floor. Historically, Lopez has played well against Tyson Chandler, pick-and-roll defense notwithstanding, and Lopez’s range can pull out Chandler and allow Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans to go against Amar'e/Copeland/Melo on the boards, a battle Brooklyn can win.
Weisberg: they can piece together a complete defensive effort. Very simple concept; defense. The Nets have been winning games under P.J. Carlesimo with their offense. They have shown spurts of great defense (4th quarter against ATL, 1/18) and spurts of very poor defense (entire game against ATL, 1/16). If Brooklyn can piece together a complete defensive effort for an entire game, they should win.
Ginocchio: Anthony gets hot early and the Nets get tunnel vision in trying to defend him. Remember all that open space in Nets/Knicks Game three? You could park an Eddy Curry in all that space.
Defeat: The Knicks will win if…
DeFeo: The Nets continue to have no answer for Carmelo Anthony. Melo seems to take this "rivalry" personally and thinks that the best player in New York tag is on the line with every single field goal attempt.
Hood: Stoudemire makes a difference. The Knicks have not been playing well since Stoudemire’s return to the floor and neither has he. However, if he can get to the free throw line like he did against the Pistons (11-12 from the charity stripe in 20 minutes), he can put the Knicks ahead and put the Nets big men in foul trouble.
Nadeau: JR Smith plays within himself. Too often, Smith decides he's the first option on Carmelo's team. Smith has the ability to win a game on his hot hand, but he’s shot the Knicks out of just as many. If Smith fits into his role as a spot-up shooter and cutter, letting Anthony run his show and handle the final minutes, the Knicks should be fine.
Weisberg: Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith can get hot. When the Knicks routed the Nets 100-86 on Dec. 19th, Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith combined to shoot 19-33 (58%) from the field, totaling 50 points. When these two are on, they're impossible to stop. Unfortunately for the Nets, they’ve found this out the hard way a few times this season. Whether the Nets use Bogans, Wallace, double teams or triple teams, there’s simply no combination of looks the Nets can use to stop these two when they’re feeling it.
Ginocchio: When we talk about this game years from now, I think this will be known as the Brook Lopez game. Some of the smarter analysts in the league think he's a no-brainer for the all-star game, but there are people who still need convincing. I think with the extra day off between games, PJ rides Lopez early and late and he proves why anyone picking Tyson Chandler or Joakim Noah over him for the all-star game needs their heads checked.
One bold prediction for tonight's game:
DeFeo: Carmelo Anthony drops a 50 spot.
Hood: Reggie Evans or Gerald Wallace will get a fine for flopping during this game. Wallace has shown a penchant for extra acting ability against the Knicks this season, especially when guarding Carmelo Anthony. Evans, the first NBA player ever to get fined for flopping, will surely be in the mix as well in the much-anticipated final matchup of New York’s newest rivalry.
Nadeau: Gerald Wallace will smile. We can hope, right? I wanted to stay away from the cookie-cutter, generic predictions about superstars. But this could be a huge game from Deron Williams. The Nets need to win to have any chance at holding tiebreakers with the Knicks, and against the slower guards, Williams needs to attack early and often. Predicting 30 points and 12 assists. Also, Mirza will have 3 threes, Toko will be freed, and Crash will fall a bunch of times. (Okay, not so bold.)
Weisberg: Mirza Teletovic will make 5 three-pointers. Teletovic has shown signs of life lately, but has yet to show consistency. If he gets some run with the starters, he can feast off of the double teams thrown at Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, and Brook Lopez. The lethal-from-deep Teletovic can make a name for himself with a big performance against the crosstown rival Knicks.