Opponent: New York Knicks
Time: 7:30 PM EST
Location: Barclays Center
TV: YES Network
January was a tough month for the Brooklyn Nets as they went 1-16 with their only win coming against the New Orleans Pelicans in an offensive outlier a few weeks ago. The disastrous month finished on Monday with a loss to the Miami Heat for the second time in as many weeks, 104-96. The Nets, now 9-39, enter February on a six-game losing streak to face their cross-river rivals, the New York Knicks.
While the Nets seem to be plummeting further and further down the Eastern Conference ladder, the Knicks still have a realistic shot at a playoff berth. In their first meeting of the season, back in early November, the Knicks won by 14 points in a game where the Nets’ second half woes reared its ugly head, just as it has many times this season.
Even amidst trade rumors and front office drama, Carmelo Anthony has played great over the past week, averaging 29.8 points — but will his teammates show up? With Derrick Rose out and Kristaps Porzingis questionable, the Nets will have to try to limit Antony’s scoring — perhaps a task best suited for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert.
Despite the differences in how the two New York teams have fared this season, it’s always a good feeling to take one away from the opposing side, and the Nets really need to get in the win column (and to double digits!).
3 Things to Watch for in Nets-Knicks:
1. Watch the Youngsters
Not only are the Nets more exciting to watch when Caris LeVert, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Isaiah Whitehead are on the floor, but the Nets are a better team too. LeVert and Hollis-Jefferson provide a +4.8 per 100 possessions when playing together, something the Nets could surely utilize more. Furthermore, Whitehead shot roughly 39% from the three-point line in the month of January and has scored in double figures over his past three games. In a year where development has been preached, a major minutes boost for the youngsters is right around the corner.
2. Brook Lopez bounce back game?
The Nets’ big man has been himself all year, except for the added three-point shooting to his artillery. He’s averaging 20.5 points per game along with a 46.9 field goal percentage. However, in Monday’s loss, Lopez shot poorly (5-17) and was held to just 14 points — so the Nets ultimately couldn’t get to the finish line (again). In his last meeting against the Knicks, he scored 21 points on a much more efficient shooting percentage of 6-10. Expect Lopez to bounce back Wednesday night.
3. Avoid the runs!
The Nets have the worst defense in the league — we know that! –and lapses can demolish their odds of winning a game in a matter of moments. In Monday’s game, the Nets were up by 11 points when I got out of my car. Three minutes later, the Heat were closing out the first half on a 17-2 run to take the lead and never looked back.
The Nets have to prevent these runs, so maybe it’s time for Kenny Atkinson to experiment with a new rotation.