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Nets look for a much needed win vs. the Knicks

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New York Knicks v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

There’s never a good time to go into a slump. The NBA is such that one bad stretch of games can take what was a great season and turn it into a nightmare. That’s where the Brooklyn Nets find themselves after they lost a slog of a game against the Detroit Pistons on Thursday night at Barclays Center. Even with their superstar out, that’s a game the team expected to and probably should have won. With the schedule getting even tougher, they’re gonna have to find wins where they can.

It’s been an interesting season for the New York Knicks. About a month ago, their fans wanted to chase Tom Thibodeau out of Manhattan. I’m not sure if that’s still the case, but the team has had a pretty kickass week so far. They pulled off a pretty fantastic overtime win on the road against the Boston Celtics Thursday night. They’re solidly in the play in chase and not too far from breaking into the top six of the Eastern Conference standings. Not bad, not bad at all.

Where to follow the game

ABC on TV. WFAN and ESPN Radio NY on the radio. We’re the middle game of an NBA on ABC tripleheader (!!!) so the party’s getting started after 5:30 p.m. EST. Neither YES nor MSG have the game.


Kevin Durant is out. TJ Warren is doubtful with a left shin contusion. Edmund Sumner is probable with left Achilles soreness. Day’Ron Sharpe is questionable with lower back soreness. Ben Simmons is questionable with left knee soreness.

Mitchell Robinson is out after undergoing right thumb surgery.

The game

Brooklyn won the first game in November.

Generally speaking, when the team owner is in the news, it’s never for a good reason. James Dolan is back in the news. The owner of the Knicks and New York Rangers is catching hell from all corners MSG’s practice of using facial recognition to ban his enemies from the Garden became publicized. The NY Attorney General is on his case, and Dolan has responded to all this criticism by threatening to ban alcohol sales at some Knicks and Rangers games. He also hopped on Fox 5 and made things worse as well. It’s always something.

Assuming Ben Simmons plays today, I’m betting this will be brought up by the national TV broadcasters...

Not everyone took it quite that way...

There’s something to be said for being professional, preparing yourself, and being out there to try your very best. By doing otherwise, you cheat the fans, your teammates, and yourself.

When Simmons is on the court, the Nets need him to force the issue. The assists will always be there as his court vision is still top tier. However, they need him to look for his shot when he’s at the basket. This season, we’ve seen how good he can be when he’s pressing the issue and going up strong. The Knicks are a big team and missing one of the league’s best shot blockers tonight. They need him to bring the physicality and make his opponents feel him.

This also presents a perfect opportunity for Simmons and the Nets to push the pace. The Knicks are 28th in pace and 25th in three point efficiency. The Nets have the advantage from deep and if they’re able to get out on the run and make things happen from downtown, they can keep Thibs’ guys on their heels.

The Nets are a really bad rebounding team. The Knicks are a really good rebounding team. This may turn out to be ugly if the Nets aren’t diligent on the boards ... or are missing critical players.

This battle of New York also doubles as a battle of New Jersey. New Brunswick’s own, Jalen Brunson, has been terrific for the Knicks and is a strong contender to make the All-Star Game. JB is averaging career highs in points (22.4) and assists (6.3) on a .468/.402/.844 triple slash all while turning it over at a career low rate. Having a point guard that can score efficiently, run the offense well, take over late, and help you make the most out of every possession is such a blessing.

West Orange’s own will look to put together another banner showing. On the day he was announced as an All Star starter, Kyrie Irving was excellent once again as he poured in 40 points against a Pistons defense that was hellbent on slowing him down. He “only” had six assists, but would’ve gotten a lot more if his teammates cashed in open looks from deep. We ask a lot out of Irving, and rightfully so. He’s a mesmerizing player when he’s firing on all cylinders, and without Durant, has fought to keep the team competitive and locked in. It’s a lot to carry on his shoulders, but he’s stepped up to try and fill the void left by KD’s absence. It’s a great sign for Irving, the Nets, and most importantly, Nets fans.

Then, there is this...

Player to watch: Julius Randle

From afar, it looks like Randle and Knicks fans have a love-hate relationship. Every time I look on Twitter, I see someone slandering him or posting a clip of him doing something silly on the court. At the same time, there he is dominating and hitting the game winning shot against a tough Cleveland Cavaliers team. He contains multitudes! Randle still has the ball in his hands a ton, but has seen his three point attempts explode. He’s 15th in the NBA in threes attempted at almost eight a night, and is shooting a respectable 34.6 percent from downtown. He’s still hell on wheels when he’s rolling to the basket and in the post. The East is pretty crowded in the frontcourt, but he has a good chance of making it to the All Star Game in Utah.

It’s been three years since the Knicks have beaten the Nets, and a lot of the losses have been razor thin

I’m betting he’s gonna be looking to prove a point today.

The other New York lefty will be looking to make his All Star case tonight. Nic Claxton had another excellent game on Thursday. His 27 points, 13 rebounds, and two blocks kept the Nets in the game. What might have been the best development for Clax was him going 5-7 from the free throw line. The foul line is still a bugaboo for him, but you have to love that he keeps attacking and going right at defenses even when they hack him. His confidence is growing by the second and a game against a star like Randle will be another great test of his growth. When you keep working and battling, people notice and appreciate it.

From the Vault

Tonight is the Royal Rumble, which will be taking place at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. Now if you wanna see Stone Cold Steve Austin open up a can of whoop ass, gimme a hell yeah! HELL YEAH!

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