It is a holy day of obligation in New York basketball and in the campus chapel at Villanova University: the Brooklyn Nets vs. the New York Knicks in the latest Battle of the Boroughs and Wildcat Renaissance.
But first, a look back at Monday night in Salt Lake City. Some games you win, some game you lose, some games you look for untethered objects to toss at high speed toward whatever platform that is providing you video of the Brooklyn Nets. It was not the worst loss ever. There’s quite a bit of competition for that accolade. And there were some positives. Cam Thomas had another 40-point game and Spencer Dinwiddie had another double-double as he continues to show his consistency. But boy was it frustrating! annoying!
That said, the Nets, closing out a five-game, eight-day West Coast swing, looked exhausted, discombobulated and generally soft as the Jazz kept coming at them, and the Nets couldn’t answer. There was a regression across the board. There are, however, 82 games in the NBA season and a wrong can be righted in a matter of days, particularly when the next game is with the team’s archrival.
Where to follow the game
YES Network and MSG Network on TV. WFAN and 98.7FM ESPN New York on radio. Tip after 7:30 p.m. ET
No change: Ben Simmons, Lonnie Walker IV, and Dennis Smith Jr. are out. Dorian Finney-Smith is available. News is expected Wednesday regarding Ben Simmons’ status, Brian Lewis reports.
Mitch Robinson (ankle surgery) is out following right ankle surgery and now his replacement Jericho Sims is out for a week or two with his own ankle issue.
As most players and pundits will tell you, the first game back from a long road trip should be counted as part of the trip. Players are still recovering from the trip both physically and mentality, often just 48 hours after touching down. As we’ve said, this trip was particularly rough in terms of squeezing a maximum number of games in a minimum amount of days as well as jumping between near sea level to a mile-high altitudes and back. Moreover, their three injured players didn’t even make the trip.
The Knicks too are coming off the road, West Coast, too, but instead of embarrassing themselves as the Nets did, New York beat the Los Angeles Lakers, ruining the Lake Show’s hoisting of the In-Season Tournament banner. The Knicks. In their just completed five-game road trip, were 2-2, their other win coming over the Suns.
New York’s big stars, Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle have played well, very well. On the trip, Brunson put up a game of 50 points, vs. Phoenix, while Randle, who has a love-hate relationship with Knick fans, averaged 26 points a game and 9.5 rebounds out on the coast. While Brunson’s heroics have come to be commonplace, Randle continues to be more the center of Knick fans’ trade machine forays than praise. But he is on a roll in one area of concern for Nets fans: Randle had 22 points in the paint vs. the Lakers and scored better than 16 in each of the four games out West. His big body skills will put the Nets frontcourt to the test.
The Knicks have their own frontcourt issues. As noted, Mitch Robinson is out and Jerome Sims is questionable. The frontcourt depth has been an issue but Isaiah Hartenstein, the Knicks’ veteran 7-footer has stepped up, garnering 17 boards, including seven offensive, vs. the Lakers. Hartenstein also trashed talked Nets fans on Tuesday.
Ahead of game at Barclays, Isaiah Hartenstein dismisses idea of a inter-borough rivalry.— Stefan Bondy (@SbondyNBA) December 20, 2023
“Is there a rivalry? I don’t feel it. I mean, most of the time we go to Barclays it’s mostly Knicks fans so I don’t know if it’s really a rivalry at this point.”https://t.co/0JCqk6Axfp
Well, the Nets and Knicks have played 210 games in the regular season with 107 victories for Nets and 103 for Knicks. Add playoff games and it’s 112-108. Over the last 20 games between the two teams, the Nets have won 14. (After last season’s superstar trades, however, the Knicks blew out the Nets in two games led by Brunson who has become a bit of a Nets-killer.) Not a rivalry? It has its own Wikipedia page.
Overall, depending on how both teams survived their flights home, expect a high scoring contest with a lot of 3-pointers. The Nets rank second in the NBA in 3-point shooting while the Knicks are sixth.
Player to watch: Jalen Brunson
The signature move of Leon Rose’s tenure as Knicks GM was the acquisition of Jalen Brunson. He is not just a reliable point guard, something New York has missed for years, if not decades. He takes the game on his shoulder and with efficiency as The Athletic noted after his 50-piece vs. Phoenix.
Brunson didn’t just go for half a hundred; he got there in special ways. He did it on 17-of-23 shooting from the field, as well as 9-of-9 shooting from 3-point range and added six rebounds, nine assists and five steals. His performance from deep ties the record for most 3s made in an NBA game without a miss.
Brunson also didn’t miss anything in the second half, going 12-of-12.
Against the Nets overall in his career, Brunson is averaging 19.0 points vs. Brooklyn. Good but not extraordinaray. However, in the two games post-trade Nets last season, he put up 40 and 39 points and completely dominated his Villanova teammate Mikal Bridges. The Nets and Bridges can’t let that happen again.
From the Vault
It’s New York, New York so enjoy a little culture from a time when the city was coming into its own as the greatest city in the world. Here’s George Gershwin’s masterpiece, Rhapsody in Blue, composed 100 years ago.
It makes my head explode. Every time.
- Brooklyn Nets Game Notes - Brooklyn Nets
- New York Knicks Game Notes - New York Knicks
- Brooklyn takes on New York, looks to break 3-game slide - AP
- Nets get no respite after daunting Western trip - Zach Braziller - New York Post
- Nets expected to give health update on Ben Simmons - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- This Knicks problem was exposed during five-game road trip - Stefan Bondy - New York Post
- Knicks enter ‘rivalry’ game with Nets in a very different position this time around - Stefan Bondy - New York Post
- Nets second-pick Jalen Wilson finds opportunity for a Brooklyn team dealing with rash of injuries ($) - C.J. Holmes - New York Daily News
- Las Vegas eyes Knicks, Nets as favorites to win Donovan Mitchell sweepstakes ($) - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Nets’ rebounding must bounce back to pre-road trip levels ($) - Evan Barnes - Newsday
- Knicks recapture their identity in win over Lakers ($) - Steve Popper - Newsday
- It’s time for the Knicks to start Immanuel Quickley - David Vertsberger - SNY