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Nets & Knicks meet for the first time this season

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Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

That went well. The Brooklyn Nets opened December with a solid 94-91 victory over the Phoenix Suns at the Barclays Center on Tuesday night. They're still well below .500, but they have won their last four home games. The Nets are still in town and won't have to leave New York City until the 18th when they visit Indiana.

The opponent this evening will be the New York Knicks. The Knicks had been playing well recently, but they had lost three out of their last four games going into Wednesday night. They got back on track with an easy 99-87 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in MSG. This is the first night of a back-to-back for the Knickerbockers. They're in Milwaukee to play the Bucks on Saturday night.

Where to follow the game

YES Network (unless you have chosen Comcast as your cable provider), MSG Network, and ESPN (!!) on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM and ESPN 98.7 FM on the radio. Tip off is after 7:30.

Injuries

Andrea Bargnani's still dealing with a hamstring injury and he won't be playing tonight.

Carmelo Anthony missed the Houston game with an illness pm Sunday, but he played on Wednesday and will be here tonight.

The game

Here's a quick snapshot of what the NYC teams have been up to so far:

2015-2016

Brooklyn

New York

Record

5-13 9-10

Pace

98.7 96.95

Offensive Efficiency

96.5 99

Defensive Efficiency

102.6 101.2

Turnover Rate

15.4 14.8

Assist Rate

15.9 15

Offensive Rebounding Rate

24.1 26.4

Rebound Rate

50.8 50.6

Free Throw Rate

22.2 26.2

Effective Field Goal Percentage

46.9 46.2

Opponent's Effective Field Goal Percentage

51.4 45.9

Don't expect a lot of scoring in this game. Both of these teams rank in the bottom ten in offensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage. Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal took a look at NY's struggles recently and found:

But while the Knicks’ pace is concerning—as is their habit of going down to the final four seconds of the shot clock, which they’ve done nearly twice as much recently as they did during the first two weeks of the season—tempo is far from the only issue lingering from last year.

Shot selection is another problem. The Knicks still shoot from midrange more than any other team, and rank in the bottom 10 in how often they shoot from 3-point range. They also rank in the bottom five in their rate of shots at the rim.

In a nutshell: The Knicks, who again rank last in the NBA in how often they drive to the basket, struggle with their floor spacing despite a frontcourt that features an elite scorer in Anthony and a budding star in rookie Kristaps Porzingis.

The Nets might be the elixir for the Knicks' scoring woes. Brooklyn is top ten in shots allowed at the rim (30.9) and three point attempts allowed (26.6). The Knicks offense isn't built to take full advantage of that, but good looks should be there for NY.

Carmelo Anthony is having a bit of a down year by his standards, but he's still a player you have to gameplan around. Melo is shooting a career low from two point range, but he's shooting a career high from the foul line (with an increase in free throw rate) and is around league average from three point range. He's a bit less involved in the offense compared to what we're used to, Melo is at his best when he's in the post but as Herring noted, he's there a lot less this year as compared to last. That works well for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. RHJ is the best perimeter defender the Nets have and will be assigned to Melo tonight. He's been matched up with some of the league's best scorers, and after tonight, he'll be facing Klay Thompson (or Steph) and James Harden over the next two games.

This is the first meeting of the Lopez twins this season. Robin spent his entire career in the Western Conference prior to this year but is in the first of a four year contract. The Knicks defense is six points per 100 possessions better than it was year, and Robin's played a part in that. The Knicks are allowing 101.2 points per 100 possessions overall, and it drops to 99.2 when Robin's on the court. Brook Lopez will have a tougher challenge on the inside tonight than he did against Mirza Teletovic, Alex Len and the Suns on Tuesday. In that game, Brook made seven out of his ten shots inside the restricted area. The Nets use Brook in the pick and roll a lot more than it seems like (76, fourth highest in the league), and Robin is one of the more effective P&R defenders in the league. It should be a fun matchup.

We may see Willie Reed make his NBA debut tonight. Reed was expected to be a contributor off of the bench, but he tore a ligament in his thumb near the end of preseason. Reed is the cousin of former Knicks great (and former Nets GM) Willis Reed, so having #CallWillieUp happen in Madison Square Garden would be pretty nice.

Player to watch: Kristaps Porzingis

Seriously, how can you not love this kid? A dude that had cornrows and learned American culture from Worldstar is always good in my book. It helps that he's been playing well to start his NBA career and was just named Rookie of the Month for the Eastern Conference. He's top ten in the NBA in blocks per game, double doubles, top 20 in rebounds per game, made highlights with some impressive dunks, and has had some success from three point range. Knick fans are rightfully in love with him and if he continues to develop, they'll be competing for a playoff spot soon. There was one unfortunate moment...

but that's life as a big man in the NBA. He also threw a few jabs at the Nets, so there's that.

Thaddeus Young had an awful game against the Suns, but finished strong in the fourth quarter to help give Brooklyn the victory. Thad's been able to provide a positive contribution every night, and he'll be the one responsible for keeping KP off the glass. Porzingis has a penchant for committing fouls (he's top ten in total fouls) so Thad should be active on the glass all night.

From the Vault

When you're a top pick and have the weight of the franchise on your shoulders, things can be stressful. When Patrick Ewing went number one in the 1985 Draft, he was expected to save the Knicks and drew comparisons to one of the best players in league history before he even played a meaningful NBA game. Here's Sports Illustrated's Jack McCallum:

As the new season opens, another shot-blocking franchise may be with us in the 7-foot, evenly muscled, 240-pound person of Patrick Ewing, the first pick in the rich 1985 draft. The comparisons with Russell are inevitable. Ewing is special in many of the same ways that Russell was. His offense is still undeveloped—certainly Akeem Olajuwon was more advanced as an offensive player when he came into the league last year. It is because of Ewing's defense, as was the case with Russell, that his presence is so commanding. Ewing is a greyhound getting up and down the floor, just as Russell, an outstanding track and field athlete, was. Ewing is intimidating, intense and tough, qualities epitomized by Russell. And like Russell, he is a proud and enigmatic man.

With that in mind, watch this segment CBS ran before Ewing's pro debut against Moses Malone and the Philadelphia 76ers.

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