Tonight, in their last home game before the All-Star break, the Nets (20-28) welcome in their crosstown rivals, the New York Knicks (10-39), winners of five of their last eight. The Nets begin the day a half-game behind the Miami Heat (21-28), participants in the second game of tonight’s nationally televised doubleheader, for the all-important eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
This rivalry, even manufactured when juicy, has fallen flat on its face. The Nets are praying to win a playoff spot and sell off their biggest players to the highest bidder. The Knicks are staggering to the finish line. The game was previously scheduled to air on national TV but subsequently “flexed out” for a more appealing matchup. Can you blame them?
Onto the game. With a win tonight, the Nets would clinch their first season series win over the Knicks since the 2006-07 season, when they swept all four games. The Nets are hitting their stride, winning two straight games against top-tier teams including perhaps their best game of the season on Wednesday in Toronto.
In the last meeting between these teams December 2nd, the Nets withstood a late fourth-quarter Knicks surge en route to a 98-93 road win led by Joe Johnson’s 22-point, eight-rebound, and six-assist performance. The game was punctuated by a key time-out call that was not granted to Derek Fisher.
Kevin Garnett, who pitched in six points and 13 rebounds in the win, could possibly sit out tonight per back-to-back protocol with a game scheduled in Washington on Saturday. Hollins has usually chosen to sit KG on the backside of the two game sets this season, but did hold him out of a game against Philadelphia on January 9th with the front court heavy Pistons looming the next night. With third seeded Washington on tap for tomorrow, there’s a good chance Hollins could apply the same strategy.
While the Knicks may not pose a threat like the Eastern Conference’s crème de la crème, the Nets must pay attention to their opponent’s coinciding factor in this recent eight-game uptick: Langston Galloway. Yes, that Langston Galloway. Perhaps not a household name, but since entering the starting lineup on January 19th, the rookie point guard has averaged 12 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.1 assists. He’s come out of nowhere to propel his team, similar to Jeremy Lin’s midseason lineup infusion in 2012 — albeit less exciting and effective.
While “Langsanity” has given Knicks fans something to cheer about the past eight games, the season has been a failure from start to finish. Even team president Phil Jackson admitted so earlier this week: “So far, my experiment has fallen flat on its face.”
The Knicks rank 28th in the league in scoring, 29th in rebounding, and are now playing out the season without the service of guards J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, both traded to Cleveland last month. Carmelo Anthony, now an eight-time All-Star, remains the steady presence on the team, averaging 24.2 points per game, but the rebuilding has clearly begun at Madison Square Garden.
On the injury front, the Knicks could be without Amar’e Stoudemire for the sixth straight game with an ankle injury. Cole Aldrich (bruised shin), Pablo Prigioni (sore left hip), and Travis Wear (strained left hip) are also questionable to return to action tonight while nursing their injuries.
Tip-off is at 7:00 E.S.T. at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Let us know if you’re watching.