Moke Hamilton, SNYNets.com
NEW YORK — Judging by the media circus inside of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, one could easily think that the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets are preparing for game one of a playoff series, not game one of what many hope to become an intra-city rivalry.
The game will tip off at 7:00pm and be televised in front of the nation.
Finally, we can see these two teams square off. Here are the five factors that will probably determine the outcome of tonight’s game…
Defending The Three Point Arc
Thus far, the Knicks are the league’s best three point shooting team, leading the leagues in makes per game (12.8) and ranking second in percentage (41.8).
The Nets, however, are the 11th best team in the league at defending the three point line. This season, opponents are only converting on 34.3 percent of their tries from distance.
And lately, we’ve seen the Knicks perimeter defense struggle at times, particularly in last week’s back to back losses to the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets.
Percentages aside, Williams, Johnson and Wallace are all capable three point shooters and any can get hot, especially if they get uncontested looks.
The Nets bench hasn’t been given its fair credit. C.J. Watson and Andray Blatche have been two very good reserve players for Avery Johnson’s team.
The Knicks, on the other hand, have gotten unexpected contributions from Rasheed Wallace and unexpectedly good contributions from J.R. Smith.
Each team will play eight or nine men tonight, and the top three reserves for each team will have an opportunity to steal some momentum for their respective teams, especially in those early second quarter minutes when games traditionally slow down and become a bit more lethargic.
Despite coach Avery Johnson’s pleas for him team to speed the tempo up during the preseason, we’ve seen the Nets become a very solid half court team. Credit Brook Lopez for that. Lopez has been managing games from the post and scoring efficiently.
Over the Nets last five games, Lopez is averaging 19.8 points and has made 53.4 percent of his 86 shots attempts. That’s pretty good. The Nets should try to play a slower paced game, because their half court execution is probably as good as the Knicks, but their transition offense probably wouldn’t be as effective, so a shootout may not be preferable.
The team that controls the tempo controls the game and if a shootout ensues, the Knicks probably have more firepower.
The Knicks are the best team in the NBA when it comes to taking care of the ball. Collectively, the team commits just 10.8 turnovers per game. The Nets, though, are the fifth best team in this department, giving it away 13.2 times per game.
The Knicks, however, are fifth best at forcing turnovers. Teams turn it over against the Knicks 16.2 times per game. The Knicks also steal the ball exceptionally well—9.3 times per game.
Tonight, though, something has to give. The team that takes better care of the ball will have more scoring opportunities and—usually—more points.
Carmelo Anthony vs. Deron Williams
Carmelo Anthony finds himself in a rather precarious situation. It’s well known that he had his choice between becoming a member of the (then) New Jersey Nets or New York Knicks and we obviously see how that situation played itself out.
Anthony, born in Brooklyn, spoke to the media yesterday and didn’t try to downplay the significance of playing his first game in Brooklyn. He referred to Brooklyn as “my borough,” in fact. And despite everything that the Knicks and coach Mike Woodson have done, they have done well because of Anthony’s play.
He’s moved the ball effectively and scored when needed. If he presses tonight, forces shots and doesn’t allow his teammates to make plays and stay involved in the game, the Nets balanced scoring attack and team-first play will probably win the night.
For Anthony, it’s not about shots or points, it’s about how he plays the game.
Williams, on the other hand, is the only “no doubt” advantage that the Nets have over the Knicks. Gerald Wallace is a capable defender that has the potential to stifle Anthony, just as Tyson Chandler is to Brook Lopez. Kris Humphries and Joe Johnson could present the Knicks with problems, but their struggles thus far this season put Williams in the spotlight.
Thus far this season, he has done a very good job of distributing and facilitating for his teammates—nobody more than Brook Lopez. Still, Williams needs to find his balance because the Knicks are a good defensive team. If his teammates are limited, he may have to take 25 shots.
Odds are, the superstar that does the better job of controlling the game and keeps his teammates involved will help his team immensely.
The action tips off at 7:00pm on TNT.