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Nets return home for Battle of the Boroughs, part one, vs. Knicks

Kevin Durant and Nets welcome the Knicks to town; Brooklyn will be without Kyrie Irving.

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Brooklyn Nets v New York Knicks Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Damn, that one would have been nice. The Nets ended their three game road-trip at 2-1, which anybody would have taken before Brooklyn had departed for D.C. last Friday. But man 3-0 would have been sweet, and they almost had it. After defeating the Wizards and Hornets over the weekend, Brooklyn dropped a tight on in Dallas, 96-94. And it wasn’t your regular old two-point loss; Kevin Durant was at the free-throw line with a chance to tie it.

But KD missed what would have been his 63rd consecutive made free throw, and Brooklyn

lost a heartbreaker in the Big D.

Of course, Durant’s missed free throw wasn’t the only reason for the loss. The Nets closed the first quarter with 34 points but couldn’t crack 100 for the game. They scored just 21 points in the final frame. Not one player on their bench finished with a positive plus/minus, thanks in part to Yuta Watanabe’s second-quarter ankle injury, which immobilized him for the remainder of the evening. That includes Ben Simmons’ 16 minutes off the bench, which were largely uninspiring.

Ultimately, the game came down to the Mavericks figuring out their principal defensive strategy after the first quarter, which was doubling Durant and rotating off of it. Those rotations sped up throughout the game, eventually crescendoing to a tempo that Brooklyn’s offense just couldn’t match.

The news wasn't all bad, though. Despite shooting 43% from three, Dallas and their league-best offense was put on a leash. Nic Claxton and Durant in particular did an admirable job defending Luka Doncic one-on-one, while the Nets still put a lid on the rim. They largely abandoned doubling Luka after the first quarter, a risky strategy that, despite 36 points from Doncic, worked just fine. The energy, overall, on the last game of was road trip, was as good as you could ask for.

It all just would’ve been easier to swallow with a win in tow. Alas, Brooklyn has a shot for redemption on Wednesday night vs. the dreaded New York Knicks.

Where to follow the game

We’ve got a double dip, with the game being telecast on both YES Network (and the YES App) as well as ESPN, nationally. WFAN-FM has the radio call, and the festivities start at 7:30 p.m. ET, from the Barclays Center.


T.J. Warren and Kyrie Irving remain out, rehabbing their foot and public image, respectively. As for Yuta Watanabe’s gnarly ankle sprain, that will keep him out for Wednesday’s contest, at the very least.

Meanwhile the ‘Icks have Mitchell Robinson (knee) sidelined. And second-year guard Quentin Grimes (foot) is officially questionable for the game.

The game

The New York Knicks may very well be playing in a simulation, as John Hollinger noted after their comfortable win over the disappointing Timberwolves:

That’s right: Manhattan’s squad serves as the perfect measuring stick for Brooklyn. They are, so far, entirely average.

Those satisfyingly symmetrical numbers do indeed match the eye test: The Knicks have quality talent and play decently hard, just not enough to truly separate themselves from the pack. The only real difference from previous iterations of this team under Tom Thibodeau, besides having Jalen Brunson, is that they are more likely to push the ball up the court in transition.

Look for the Nets to get hot from three, back shooting in their home gym. The Knicks do not give up many shots at the rim; the Nets are not interested in shots at the rim, currently shooting the third-fewest of ‘em, per Cleaning the Glass. The Knicks, rather, have made the sacrifice of allowing 40% of the shots taken against them to come from deep. Only the Miami Heat can say the same. A get right game for the Nets, particularly for Joe Harris and Seth Curry? This could be the one.

The concern? Bench play. Brooklyn is not deep without Irving, Watanabe, and most of Simmons, working his way back from two injuries, now. Meanwhile, the Knicks are only deep. Their starting lineup is getting smothered at a net rating of -8.8. Bench-heavy lineups are doing the opposite, particularly ones buoyed by Brunson. Immanuel Quickley is ascending in this league, but may be already better than any Brooklyn guard currently playing games. Shocking as it is to say, Cameron Reddish would be a welcome addition across the Brooklyn Bridge right now. And boy oh boy, would Isaiah Hartenstein fit right in as the backup big Brooklyn could use? Instead, we’ll likely see a larger dose of Markieff Morris, given Watanabe’s injury. The bench minutes are going to be key on Wednesday.

Player to Watch

R.J. Barrett is coming on strong in his fourth season out of Duke. Still just 22 years old, he’s averaging 20/6/3, albeit on pedestrian splits: just 29% from deep and 43% overall. And while those numbers are anchored by a putrid season opener (11 points on 3-18), you can’t simply remove one game in a sample size this small.

Still, Barrett is firmly a good player, and an All-Star path isn’t out of the question. The rim pressure and subsequent high-level passing from that area of the court may never be elite, but if he gets you on that right hip it’s over. At a legit 6’6”, he’s got a thick frame and the touch to make any contest but a great one irrelevant. And he’s currently on a little heater from three, having made 13-30 over his last five contests. It’ll likely be Joe Harris and Royce O’Neale splitting time on him out of the gate, with Durant on Julius Randle.

Oh yeah, one other thing: the Nets fired his godfather last week.

From the Vault

This rivalry had a much better ring to it when the Nets played in Jersey, perhaps the biggest pitfall of their move to Brooklyn. “The Turnpike Classic” and “The Function at the Junction” knock “Battle of the Boroughs” way outta the park.

Anyway, to relive the wonder years, how about you remember the beef between Kenyon Martin and Tim Thomas, sparked from Jason Collins’ playoff flagrant foul on Thomas, who would, after some twists and turns, call Martin ‘fugazi’. New Jersey would sweep that 2004 first-round series, for what it’s worth.

SB Nation’s own Secret Base even has a whole “Beef History” on Thomas and Martin. It’s a lot more layered than you might have remembered:

For further reading, head to Posting and Toasting.

The Brooklyn Nets will tip off against the New York Knicks at 7:30p.m. est. All nationally televised NBA games can be watched on SlingTV.