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Battle of the Boroughs I: Nets take on Knicks at Barclays

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Los Angeles Lakers v New York Knicks Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

When you play sloppy against the best of the best, you get what you deserve. On Saturday night, the Phoenix Suns brought their 15 game winning streak into the clays as the Brooklyn Nets awaited them. Brooklyn got down by a bunch, fought to make it close late, but couldn’t get over the hump as the Suns extended their winning streak to 16 with a six point win. The L snapped Brooklyn’s four game winning streak. Get back up and get back on the grind.

The opponent tonight is a familiar one. The New York Knicks are trying to build off their fourth seed from last season, but it’s been a lot harder this time around. They were on the road to take on the Atlanta Hawks Saturday night, and got a much needed victory to stay above .500. The Knicks W snapped Atlanta’s seven game winning streak as well.

Where to follow the game

TNT on TV. WFAN and ESPN 98.7 FM on radio. Tip off after 7:30.


Nicolas Claxton is out. It was announced yesterday that Joe Harris had undergone surgery on his left ankle. As we hear more, we’ll let you know.

Derrick Rose has been bothered by an ankle sprain recently and is listed as questionable. Taj Gibson has been bothered by a sore groin and is listed as questionable. Nerlens Noel has been dealing with a sore right knee, and his status is up in the air for this contest. RJ Barrett was added to the injury report yesterday as he is questionable with a non COVID illness.

The game

The Knicks starting five of Walker, Evan Fournier, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, and Mitchell Robinson lead the NBA in minutes played together (287), but are deep underwater as teams are outscoring them by 15.7 points per 100 possessions while they’re on the court. The only lineups worse are on the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder, two teams who are rebuilding. The bench mob of D-Rose, Immanuel Quickley, Alec Burks, Obi Toppin, and Gibson are outscoring teams by 28 points per 100 possessions, third highest in the NBA. Tom Thibodeau has been loathe to make lineup changes when the team is fully healthy, but if the first five still keeps struggling, something’s gonna have to be done...

And something was done! Yesterday, the team announced that Alec Burks will be starting at point guard and Walker is out of the rotation. Sheesh.

The last time Evan Fournier saw the Nets, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and friends took turns picking on him as the Nets took out the Boston Celtics in five games. The Nets don’t have Irving of course, but the offense is still pretty dangerous with Patty Mills running around. The Knicks defense is allowing 39 threes a game, sixth highest in the league. Of those threes, about 21 of them are classified as wide open (per, that’s when the closest defender is six or more feet away from the shooter). Teams have made 40.4 percent of those shots, fifth highest mark in the league. On the season, Mills is leading the league in three point percentage at 50%. If the Knicks defense isn’t on its game, the Nets can bury the Knicks in a hole they may not be able to get out of.

On a totally different note, Posting & Toasting writer Abe Beame and friend of the site, Jayson Buford, chop it up about Succession every week. It’s dope and you should read it.

Speaking of RJ Barrett, it looks like he has taken a step back following his breakout second half of the 2020-2021 season. He’s taking more three pointers this year, but has only cashed in on 32.1 percent of them. For the short and long term, the Knicks need Barrett to play at an All Star level if they want to break into the top half of the Eastern Conference.

Run, run, run. The Suns sped the Nets up and it had Brooklyn a bit confused. That starts with James Harden. Harden coughed it up seven times and that helped Phoenix get 20 points off of turnovers. He’s still trying to figure out whether he should function more as a scorer or distributor, which has made this season a bit more complicated for him. It might help Harden some if he got into the offense a bit sooner and pushed the issue a bit more. Can never go wrong when you’re aggressive.

Nets co-governor, Clara Wu Tsai, did an interview with YES Network’s Michael Grady about the New York Liberty and their goals to make them more successful. Read about it here.

Now that we know Harris out indefinitely, who will take his place? DeAndre Bembry was recently inserted into the starting five and has acquitted himself incredibly well. Cam Thomas has been the first player off the bench over the past week and it seems like the rookie will get some more responsibilities on his plate. It’s going to be tough replacing a 47 percent shooter from deep, but the Nets will have to figure it out and fast.

The Nets love to switch on defense, which makes life difficult for LaMarcus Aldridge when the other team has Devin Booker and Chris Paul on their side. LMA had a good game all things considered, but only played 28 minutes as the matchups weren’t advantageous to him. He’ll be back out there and he’ll be matched up with Mitchell Robinson. Robinson has been bothered by injuries throughout his three year career and put on some weight over the summer. Aldridge has punished opposing centers all year and with Noel less than 100 percent, the Knicks will need a big game from their young center.


The Nets and Knicks are tied, all time, at 101 wins each, If you count playoff matchups, it’s 106-106. A win tonight for either team has bigger bragging rights than usual. Brooklyn swept New York last season, 3-0, to put them in this position.

Player to watch: Julius Randle

There’s a different pressure when you’re the franchise player. Everything falls on your shoulders, you have to be the person that steps up and leads the team, and when things go wrong, you have to be the one that stands at the front of the line answering why things are going wrong. After a banner season that saw him being named to his first All Star and All NBA team, Julius Randle got the bag and all the responsibilities that come with it. This year has been a severe step down as Randle is taking more threes, getting to the rim less, getting to the free throw line less, turning the ball over more, and taking more threes than he should. Over at Posting and Toasting, Daniel Lubofsky wrote about Randle and said:

So much of Randle’s game is rooted in his ability to overpower the opposition on his way to the bucket, and yet he’s continuously bailed defenses out with every jumper he launches. He took 11 shots against the Magic on Wednesday. 10 of them were 3-pointers. Sure, he hit four of them, but the Knicks don’t pay this man to float behind the line and shoot jumpers all game. He took two free throws against Orlando, a team that gives up the sixth-most free-throws per game.

It’s also worth noting that aside from the dip in production, Randle’s body language has been downright awful. He puts his head down. He’ll turn the ball over and get dejected while everyone else beats him down the court. His defensive awareness and reaction come and go.

We can talk all day long about the improvements the Knicks need from their defense and a handful of players. Perhaps Tom Thibodeau does, in fact, need to tweak the rotation. But most teams beat to the drum of their best player and Randle’s rhythm is all out of sync in more ways than one.

For what it’s worth, Randle isn’t stressing the slow start. You need your best players to play up to standard, and so far Randle hasn’t done it.


The answer is no.

In the meantime, the Nets did something pretty interesting with Kevin Durant. They broke him out at center as they tried to pull off the comeback against the Suns. As the Nets get their full complement of talent back, that’s something we should see more of when going up against the very best in the NBA. KD has been fantastic through and through and a big showing on national TV would be a great way for the Nets to close out a successful month of November.

From the Vault

Sometimes, you need to remind people what the deal is. Deron Williams found himself in that situation in 2012...

And in other news, Max Scherzer officially signed with the New York Mets yesterday! Your team didn’t sign a future Hall of Famer yesterday? CAN’T RELATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

More reading: Posting and Toasting