Brooklyn Nets try to keep Knicks winless at the Garden

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Time: 7:30 p.m. EST

Location: Madison Square Garden

Watch: YES Network, MSG Network, FOX Sports Go

Listen: WFAN 101.9 FM, 660 AM 

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Brooklyn Nets are on Cloud 9 (or Cloud 8 because that’s Spencer Dinwiddie’s number). After a tough loss to the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night, the Nets went into Wednesday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers without their leading scorer, D’Angelo Russell (and Jeremy Lin as well.) Despite the missing pieces, Brooklyn impressed. The team pulled out a 112-107 victory, improving to 3-2. On a Cavaliers team led by LeBron James, the Nets held a strong lead towards the end of the second quarter and into the fourth quarter. But things got tense.

However, the Nets were able to seal the game with two key Dinwiddie free throws with less than 5 seconds left in the game. Dinwiddie led the Nets with a career-high 22 points, rising to the occasion as the starter spot. Despite a triple-double performance from James (29 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists), the Nets won. It was an impressive victory – especially after a tough loss in Orlando on Tuesday night and with the absence of two key players. The Nets improved to 3-2, ironically the same record as the Cavaliers.

Friday night, the Nets will travel a few subway stops away to Madison Square Garden and take on the New York Knicks. The Knicks are still winless on the season, currently 0-3. They lost their last game to the Boston Celtics on Tuesday, 110-89.

Three Things to Watch in Brooklyn Nets vs. New York Knicks

Unicorns Galore

An early season trend that has plagued the Brooklyn Nets is an inability to defend bigs. Myles Turner took over the game in the home opener against Indiana to seal a Nets loss. Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic had career games against the Nets, scoring 41 points apiece. Even in preseason, Joel Embiid dominated the undersized Nets front line. That may be due to a lack of depth and due to a lack of overall length. Timofey Mozgov has not been too effective defending against springy bigs. Trevor Booker, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Quincy Acy are solid but undersized. Jarrett Allen is still figuring out the game, despite seeing some flashes from him.

The Knicks’ offense starts and ends with Kristaps Porzingis. The 7-foot, 3-inch Porzingis is, essentially, a basketball unicorn. In his first three games, he’s averaged 25.3 points and 7.3 rebounds, greatly outpacing any other Knick. Porzingis will likely be matched up against RHJ – and there’s an eight-inch difference between the two in height. Even at the center position, Enes Kanter is an offensive force. Despite his defensive shortcomings, the new Knick Kanter will likely dominate the boards and in the paint. The Nets will have to rely on team defense to stop the two from inflicting too much damage.

Don’t Stop the Scoring

The Brooklyn Nets have averaged 121.2 points per game in their first five contests. That’s not a typo – it’s the way the Nets play. Sometimes the bombs away strategy works, but other times it doesn’t. As LeBron James himself said, the Nets look good when they’re sharing the ball and driving and kicking. It’s team basketball. Against the Knicks, the Nets will implement that same philosophy once again.

Kenny Atkinson’s offense stresses player freedom. The team’s 46 three-point attempts on Wednesday was a franchise record for most three-pointers attempted in a game. With Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll, D’Angelo Russell and Joe Harris ready to fire, expect the Nets to fire away from the perimeter – and a high-scoring contest.

D’Lo and the Rise of the Spensation

It may have been one game, but D’Angelo Russell’s presence was missed against Cleveland for the Brooklyn Nets. His calm demeanor and clutch playmaking would have been a lift for the Nets, who simply needed a stabilizing presence later in the game. But Russell – despite his sprained right knee keeping him doubtful for Friday’s game – is back and ready to build upon his already impressive season.

Even without Russell, Wednesday night’s hero was Dinwiddie. Not only did he score 22 points, but he played solid switch defense and set up his teammates decently as well. On his clutch performance down the stretch, Dinwiddie said he “unleashed his inner D’Lo” with ice in his veins. While Dinwiddie may not be the starter against the Knicks, he’ll play a major role off of the bench. A potential combo of Russell and Dinwiddie could also be seen against the Knicks as well.

The Knicks’ point guard depth has been questioned this season. Ron Baker and journeymen Jarrett Jack and Ramon Sessions have handled point guard duties in New York in the early portion of this season. Rookie Frank Ntilikina is expected to return from an ankle injury against the Nets. But still, questions linger on all of the Knicks’ playmakers. With a rotation chock full of guards, the Nets should capitalize on the Knicks’ wavering backcourt.

The Brooklyn Nets will look to improve to 4-2 on Friday night. Be sure to follow @TheBKGame on Twitter for live coverage of the battle of New York!