FanPost

Game Preview: New Jersey Nets at New York Knicks

Here we have a matchup between two teams going in the opposite direction. The Knicks are climbing in the standings, and the Nets season is over in terms of competing for a playoff spot. Ironically enough, the Knicks upswing and the Jeremy Lin phenomenon (which I'll get to later) began with a win over the Nets a few weeks ago in Madison Square Garden. Since then, the Knicks have played extremely well, winning games against the decent teams (Utah and Minnesota), teams that were considered to be championship contenders (Los Angeles and Dallas), and the crappy teams (New Jersey, Sacramento, Washington and Sacramento). Also to the Knicks credit, before Linsanity and this recent hot stretch, they were a possession away from beating the Bulls (with Derrick Rose) at home and the Celtics on the road. As for the Nets, nothing's gone right this season, but a win versus the cross town foe would be nice. Before we take the jump and look at individual matchups, let's see how these teams stack up (numbers before Sunday's games):

Team

Offensive Efficiency*

Defensive Efficiency

FT rate

Turnover Rate

Offensive Reb %

Effective FG%

Opponent eFG%

Knicks

97.9

97.3

31.6

15.48

25.15

47.38

48.40

Nets

100.6

109.9

27.2

15.20

29.09

48.10

53.07

A wise person once said "Perception is not always reality." And that would apply to the Knicks. The knock on Mike D'Antoni dating back to his time in Phoenix has been that "he doesn't coach defense," "he doesn't want to coach defense," and of course "his name is Antoni because he has no D." But as we can see, their D has been perfectly cromulent this season on the whole. Tom Ziller of Sactown Royalty and the mothership discussed this back in January. Posting and Toasting discussed this as well. We should also note that the Knicks offense has improved since Jeremy Lin came into prominence (duh.)

Looking at the Nets, the rep Avery Johnson had in Dallas was that he was a defensive dynamo and knew how to coach defense. And his Mavericks defenses were good, as they were 11th, 5th and 9th in defensive efficiency. However, that success hasn't carried over to the Nets at all as the Nets were 21st in D last year and, are dead last this season. Obvious statement is obvious: if you employ good defenders, your team will be good at defense.

And one last thing before we jump, let's take a trip back in time and watch ex Net and Knick Bernard King at his peak from the famous Nets-Knicks Christmas Day game from 1984:

(by user king1991c)

Here's the boxscore from that game too.

Game time is 7:30 and now, let's jump!

Point Guard: Jeremy Lin vs. Deron Williams

I promise I won't make any Lin puns, some of which you can find here. Since he entered the game against the Nets on February 4, he's been outstanding. He's been efficient shooting the ball (.577 True Shooting %), contributing on the glass (6.9 total rebound rate, league average for point guards is 5.7), and naturally has been getting guys involved in the offense (36.65 Assist Rate). The turnovers have been high, but with Melo back, he won't have to handle the ball as much and the turnovers should go down as a result. I should also add that opposing point guards have been held in check against Lin, as they have a .495 eFG% (right around league average) and a 15.1 PER (also around league average).

Looking to put an end to the Lin Dynasty (damnit!) is Deron Williams. It's been a weird adventure for Williams as a Net. There's been constant discussion about what he'll do this offseason, fears among the fanbase that if they send him a negative tweet, it'll influence him and cause him to leave the Nets and questions about his attitude. Lost in all of that drama has been his performance, which relative to his past performance in Utah, has not been all that great. Due in large part to the Brook Lopez injury, Williams has had to take on more offensive responsibility than he's ever had (career high 30% usage rate). The common perception amongst basketball fans is that the more possessions a player uses, the less efficient they become. With relation to Williams, that appears to be the case as his shooting is down compared to last year (though last year's numbers are skewed due to his wrist injury). His passing hasn't been where it was in Utah, but that's primarily due to him having to shoot more and that his teammates aren't exactly offensive stalwarts.

Advantage: Even

Shooting Guard: Marshon Brooks vs. Landry Fields

Brooks just got back from injury, and he's been having a decent season by rookie standards. Like most players, Brooks is best when he's attacking the basket so look for that Knicks defense to try to force him into taking contested jumpers. Like Jeremy Lin, Brooks will be taking part in the Rising Stars Challenge game All Star Weekend as will...

Landry Fields. He was having an excellent rookie season until he hit the rookie wall, which was largely attributed to the Anthony trade. Now in his sophomore season, he's back to playing good ball. His shooting has been down on the whole this season, but his shots have been falling (Hornets game excluded) since the lineup change, and now that Anthony/Stoudemire are back, he should get some open looks. And I can't mention Landry Fields without posting this bit of Landryness:

(by user Gottago2Mos)

Advantage: Knicks

Small Forward: DeShawn Stevenson vs. Carmelo Anthony

Small forward has been a black hole of suck since Richard Jefferson left, and Stevenson has continued that tradition.

On this date in NetsDaily history, Melo trade rumors! At the time, Melo was the most sought after player in the league and the majority of Knicks and Nets fans wanted him on their team. Moving on from that, it's been a bit of a rough season for Melo. He's headed to the All Star Game again, but he's been criticized for a lack of passing, and has battled a variety of injuries. But in truth, he hasn't been as bad as some would like you to believe. Is he ever gonna be a distributor like LeBron or Scottie Pippen? No. Is he gonna screw with the momentum they've built in his absence? Probably not. Even with Lin, he'll still be the team's primary focus on offense in terms of usage rate, but not at the high rates he's used to.

Advantage: Knicks

Power Forward: Kris Humphries vs. Amare Stoudemire

Another year, another solid campaign put forth by Hump. He's never gonna be confused for a superstar or anything like that, but a player who's efficient (a .564 TS% is nothing to sneeze at) the occasional times he does shoot and a rebound machine (Top 10 in rebound rate) is always a solid bet to help your team win games. And the fact that he's only making $8 million is another plus to his name.

Year 2 into the Amare Stoudemire run as a Knick hasn't been going as well for him as it did last year. Everything is down for him last year except for his rebounding, but that's largely due to not getting the ball as much as he did last year. Now that NY has a point guard who'll get him the ball more often, it's a safe bet to assume Amare will play at a level close to where he was last year.

Advantage: Knicks

Center: Shelden Williams vs. Tyson Chandler

Brook Lopez is back, but he won't be playing this game. Shelden Williams is a useful glass eater, but a non-factor on the offensive end so any offense they get out of him will be considered a bonus.

Without looking at everybody else and how they've been playing this season, I'd have to say that Tyson Chandler has been the best free agent acquisition of the past offseason. He's been outstanding on the defensive end (Top 10 in defensive win shares, opponent PER of 14), 5th in win shares (!), and hyper-efficient on offense. No matter where you shoot it or how many times you shoot it, shooting 70% from the field is something that should be applauded at every turn. One thing to note is that Chandler had X-rays done on his wrists (negative on both) after the Dallas game and will be reevaluated before game time.

Bench:

New Jersey: Anthony Morrow, Jordan Williams, Sundiata Gaines, Johan Petro

New York: J.R. Smith (his second game back from exile his time in China), Iman Shumpert, Steve Novak, Jared Jeffries, Baron Davis (maybe making his season debut?)

Advantage: The guys who don't have Johan Petro

Miscellaneous:

Expect the Knicks to attack the basket a ton as they're 4th in at the rim FG% and 6th in free throw rate. This spells big trouble for the Nets, as they're 5th worst in at the rim defensive FG% and 5th worst in opponent free throw rate.

One of these days, the Nets will be able to finish at the rim. They've had the 2nd worst FG% at the rim for three straight seasons.

Once Josh Harrellson comes back from his injury, the Knicks are gonna have too many decent players for only a few rotation spots. "Sound like one of them good problems."

Journey Through the Darkside: Posting and Toasting, but remember to play nice.

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