For about 45 minutes, the Nets had the Miami Heat on the ropes and were on their way to scoring a huge upset victory. Then, LeBron James went off and put an end to those hopes and the Nets lost. The Nets three games will have a major influence on the race for the 7 and 8 seeds in the Eastern Conference. First up, the New York Knicks. It's been a tale of two cities for our frenemies from the city, as they've undergone a complete 180 from where they were a few months ago and now find themselves battling for a playoff berth.
How do these cross town rivals compare? Let's take a look:
Offensive Rebounding %
Free Throw Rate
I remember two weeks ago, Jeff Van Gundy said on the ABC broadcast of Knicks-Bulls that New York was a top five defense in the NBA. My first thought was "this guy must be drunk." But then I went to look it up, and he's 100% right. They have been a Top 5 defense this season, which when you really think about it isn't all that surprising. I'll go back to the preview I wrote for the last time these teams played each other:
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.
Unfortunately basketball reference doesn't isolate the numbers by date, so we can't get a full measure of their before-after as it relates to the coaching change. Be that as it may, the team has played under their new coach. The defense has been anchored by Tyson Chandler on the inside and rookie Iman Shumpert on the perimeter. Knowing Mike Woodson from his days in atlanta, he runs a good amount of isolation plays for his star wing players, and that's mostly been the case in New York. Two problems that could prove to be fatal for New York are three point shooting and foul trouble. I was surprised to see this considering that they employ the leading three point shooter in the league in Steve Novak, but the Knicks are 5th worst in three point %, but are tied for 2nd in attempts per game with the Nets (that part isn't surprising).They've committed the 5th most personal fouls in the NBA this year and are 8th worst in opponent free throw rate.
As for Jersey, it's been a little better as of late, but it's still been an ugly final season for the team in New Jersey. the defense has been porous (bottom 5 in defensive efficiency and 2nd worst in effective FG%), the offense has been middling (bottom 10 in offensive efficiency and eFG%), and they've dealt with a bunch of injuries to key personnel throughout the season (Williams again, Wallace, Brook Lopez & Brooks early in the year). The move to Brooklyn can't come soon enough for this franchise.
Before we move onto this game, let's head back to 1993. This one's got Drazen Petrovic, Marv Albert & the Czar, a great Knicks team, and the amazing NBA on NBC music. What more could you ask for?
Tip-off is at 7:30. Matchups and everything else after the jump.
5 years ago, Baron Davis was a good point guard. Now, he's old, out of shape and essentially washed up. Jeremy Lin had been the starter, but he's out due to injury and might make it back in time for the playoff should the Knicks qualify. With old man Mike Bibby and the nonexistent Toney Douglas as the backups, the Knicks have a major hole at the point guard position.
last time Deron saw the Knicks, this happened:
Unlike that game, Williams is currently dealing with a sore right calf and probably isn't pissed off about anything at the moment. He missed the Heat game reportedly as a precaution, so he might be back for this one. Coming off an injury, having a defense keyed on him, and not having any other offensive help is gonna make this a challenging night for Deron. If Williams is out, look for Sundiata Gaines to start.
Shooting Guard: Iman Shumpert vs. Marshon Brooks
Rookie battle! In one corner is Iman Shumpert, the 17th pick in the 2011 Draft. His offense isn't much to write home about (.478 TS%), but that's not what's earned him praise from basketball fans this year. He's gotten praise due to his defense, as he's been tasked with defending the opposing team's top perimeter player. According to 82 games, he's held opposing point guards to a 13.4 PER (league average is 15) & opposing small forwards to a PER of 4.8. The young boy's got a ton of potential and with some better shooting, he can become a star.
And in the other corner is Marshon Brooks. He had probably his best all around game of the year vs. the Heat on Monday night, as he had an efficient 24 points with 7 rebounds and 6 assists. The most encouraging thing was his aggressiveness, as he took 7 shots at the rim and took 4 trips to the free throw line. If Williams is out again, look for Marshon to be the primary ballhandler.
It was bound to happen eventually. Green had a rough night Monday, as he went only 6-17 from the field, didn't get to the free throw line and took only jumpers. Fields is no LeBron so I would expect him to have a much better game this time out.
I don't know what happened to Fields. Last season, he was active all over the glass, passing well and was very efficient (even though he was low usage). Now, his shot has disappeared and he isn't rebounding nearly as well. Whenever Amar'e gets back, he's headed straight for the bench.
Here's what I wrote for the Heat game:
You put Kris Humphries against a great big man, he will catch a beatdown. Bosh is a great player. A beatdown will commence.
Oops! Hump had a great game vs. Miami on Monday, as he scored 29 points, pulled in 8 rebounds and matched the All Star Chris Bosh. This is a far more challenging matchup, so Hump is gonna have to have another great game if the Nets wanna spoil New York's playoff aspirations.
I'll be completely honest: I used to despise Carmelo Anthony. It wasn't anything personal, it's just that I couldn't take all the hype he got as a "Top 5 player" despite the flaws in his game, non-LeBron games laissez-faire approach to defense, and the inconsistent shooting. I remember during the Melo trade rumors I wanted no part of him on this team as I felt he wasn't nearly good enough to be worth what Denver was asking. These days? I've gone back on that stance. Did he get D'Antoni fired? You can logically reach that conclusion. But, his play has been much improved since the change. He's been more efficient shooting the ball, he's stepped up on the glass ever since Stoudemire went out with injury, he's been passing the ball well, and he's been much improved on defense. If Melo had played with this consistent effort every game, nobody would have a problem with him.
Center: Jordan Williams vs. Tyson Chandler
Nothing much happened for Williams on Monday. He's gonna have a tough time against Chandler, but facing a great player and hopefully doing well will only help build his confidence going forward.
You'd probably call me a liar if I told you Tyson Chandler has been the best Center in the NBA this season. But, it's true. Chandler has been absolutely magnificent this season. He's been super efficient (leads the league with a 70.3 True Shooting %), been a force on the glass (12th in rebound rate), has done in his part as an individual defender (opposing Centers have a 12 PER vs Tyson), and he's been great as a team defender (the Knicks are 2 points worse per 100 possessions without him on the court). His greatest impact has been on the Knicks team defense, as they've gone from 21st in defensive efficiency to 5th this season. Great signing by the Knicks and it's very likely he'll continue to play at this high level going forward.
Advantage: New York
Here's what a friend of mine had to say about J.R. Smith:
If J.R. Smith were a Batman villain, he'd be Two-Face, except both sides of him would be terrible at basketball.
Amare's out for this game, and the hope is he'll be back sometime this weekend.
I think I saw it on ESPN or something, but the Knicks think Linsanity might make it back in time for Round 1.
This will come up in the offseason, but I don't know why Phil Jackson would be interested in the Knicks. They're not really close to a title, and he gets to spend his days riding his motorcycle and fooling around with Jeanie Buss. Who'd want to leave that?
If you get the ball to him anywhere past half court, J.R. Smith will shoot it.
I'm doing this during the Knicks-Boston game, and amazingly the Knicks hit 14 threes in the first half. Keep in mind that the Celtics are #1 in defensive efficiency this year.
That's how you tank Cleveland.
If this were 10 years ago, a Baron Davis-Mike Bibby backcourt would've been terrific. Now, not so much.
Novak has 8 threes and J.R. Smith has 7 vs. Boston. Unsustainable? Hell yeah, but it's super fun to watch.
We're all assuming the crowd's gonna be 90-10 in favor of the Knicks right?
I kinda want this game to turn into a three point shootout between Novak and Anthony Morrow.
The playoff races as of Tuesday night:
7) New York
8) Philadelphia (1 game behind NY)
9) Milwaukee (1.5 games behind Philadelphia)
7) Dallas (.5 games behind)
8) Phoenix (1.5 games behind Dallas, 2 behind Denver)
9) Houston (1.5 games behind Dallas, 2 behind Denver)
10) Utah (.5 games behind Houston and Phoenix, 2 games behind Dallas, 2.5 games behind Denver)
Awesome stuff by LeBron.
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