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Nets look for another win vs. Knicks

Charlotte Hornets v New York Knicks Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Help yourself and get some help. The Brooklyn Nets have a lot of work to do as they enter the final week of the regular season and the play in games. They did themselves a favor by beating the Houston Rockets last night at Barclays. The night turned into a great one after the Charlotte Hornets lost to the Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks lost to the Toronto Raptors, and Cleveland Cavaliers lost to the Orlando Magic. Brooklyn enters this game in eighth place, 1.5 games behind the Cavs with a big time matchup in BK on Friday.

The opponent tonight will be the New York Knicks. It’s been a nightmarish season for Tom Thibodeau and friends and now that the season is a few days away from ending, they will have a lot of questions to answer as they try to bounce back next season. They’ve been off since Sunday after beating the Orlando Magic by 30 points on the road.

Oh yeah, it’s the very first time that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will play for the Nets at the Garden ... almost three years after The Clean Sweep that broke Knick fans hearts.

Where to follow the game

Triple header coverage tonight as YES Network, MSG, and ESPN have it on the TV side. WFAN and ESPN 98.7 FM on radio. Tip after 7:30 p.m.

And look for something new on the ESPN broadcast. ESPN2 is doing an “alternate” telecast in which each quarter will mimic the look of an NBA telecast from a bygone decade, as Neil Best of Newsday reports. You’ll see the “looks” of the 1960s through the 1990s, from ABC to CBS to NBC. There’ll also be guest announcers and players from those eras (mostly via remote video).

Injuries

Joe Harris and Ben Simmons are out. Goran Dragic is in COVID protocols and still stuck in Atlanta where he was diagnosed. James Johnson didn’t play last night as he’s dealing with a non COVID illness. No word on if he’ll be back tonight. Seth Curry sat out last night’s game with a sore ankle, but he may be back tonight. We’ll see.

Julius Randle is out for the final week as he deals with a sore right quadriceps tendon. Derrick Rose is out following right ankle surgery. Nerlens Noel is out with a sore left foot. Cam Reddish is out after right shoulder surgery. Kemba Walker is away from the team and likely on his way to a new team next season. Miles McBride and Quentin Grimes are both questionable with sore right knees.

The game

Brooklyn got game one in December, game two in February, and game three in March.

When you’re stuck in a lost season, you have two choices. You either a) play the young talent and start figuring out which players to keep. Or b) you go to veterans a few too many times and piss off an already pissed off fanbase. The correct choice is a, but Thibs tends to do just that. He is hard-wired that way.

Playing Obi Toppin seems like a good idea. Too often, Thibs doesn’t go to him for enough minutes and the Knicks tend to struggle as a result. Over at Posting and Toasting, chapuluna said something really interesting:

The time to move on from Julius Randle and hand Toppin the reins is now. There is no point in delaying the inevitable, so it makes more sense to cut ties as soon as possible while the franchise is still in the early stages of its reassessing process. Not doing so will only lead to frustration. A too-late trade down the road seen by many as the last move on the path to contention won’t be more than a fallacious move, full of false hopes that ultimately amount to nothing.

Getting rid of Randle and playing Toppin would, in my honest opinion, make the Knicks worse. Randle is the better player today. But it could be addition by subtraction. It will be one easy way of clearing operating space for other players — see: Barrett, RJ — to take more of a leading role. For that longed-for point guard to have a proper function and not a bunch of force-fed duties when the time comes.

That’s going to be something to keep an eye on this summer.

Prepare for a lot of whistles. The Nets are 26th and the Knicks are 28th in opponent’s free throw rate since the All Star break, so whoever maintains their discipline will help their cause a great deal.

If the Nets control the boards, they’ll control the pace of the game. The Knicks are 24th in pace, but third in rebounding post All-Star Break. For Andre Drummond, Nic Claxton, and maybe LaMarcus Aldridge as well if he plays again, they’ll have to help the Nets finish possessions by grabbing rebounds and starting the Nets break so they can get easy buckets.

RJ Barrett is the person the Knicks are banking their future on, and he’s got a lot on his shoulders. Since the break, he’s averaging 25 points, six rebounds, and around four assists in 38.5 minutes a night, but has done it on a .406/.328/.754 shooting split. He’s only shot 53 percent inside the restricted area since the break, and he’ll need to finish better along with getting back to last season’s three point success if he wants to take that next step and become an All Star. He’s a good young player and if the Knicks decide to hand the keys of the franchise over to him, the expectations will change accordingly.

A rare quiet day at the office for Efficiency Man. Kevin Durant only went 4-of-13 from the field last night as his shot wasn’t there. He was still able to contribute in other areas he pulled down nine rebounds, handed out seven assists, and had two blocks as well. For the great ones, even when one area of your game isn’t there, you still play hard and help out in other areas.

Player to watch: Immanuel Quickley

Play the kid! Quickley is one of the more talented youngsters on the team, but hasn’t gotten as many minutes as he should have as Thibodeau spent more time starting Alec Burks at point guard than he should have. Quickley figures to get the bulk of the minutes tonight, and he’s coming off of his first career triple double on Sunday so he’s coming in on a high note.

Going into yesterday’s game, we wrote about Kyrie Irving not getting to the basket as much as he typically does. Last night, Irving drove to the basket a lot more and had his best game since the birthday showcase against the Memphis Grizzlies. He scored a cool 42 points last night and had 17 of them in the fourth as the Rockets tried to make a comeback. Mitchell Robinson poses a tall test at the rim, but look for Irving to attack downhill early and often. He takes his game up a few notches when he’s taking it to the basket and his finishing ability should wow the MSG crowd. This is his first game at the Garden since 2019 and with a chance to finish off the season sweep against your rivals plus playoff positioning at stake, look for Irving to be locked in.

From the Vault

It was announced that longtime Nets score keeper, Herb Turetzky, passed away at the age of 76. Let’s take a trip back in time to watch an interview Herb did with a familiar face

More reading: Posting and Toasting