Tonight, at 7:00 P.M., the Brooklyn Nets will battle the crosstown-rival New York Knicks at Barclays Center.
The Nets, losers of four straight games, won the previous matchup 96-89 in overtime, but Brook Lopez has been ruled out. Lopez was instrumental in the first matchup, and after initially being deemed a game-time decision tonight, he’s officially been ruled out.
The Knicks, meanwhile, are off to their best start since the 1995-1996 season and are 10 games over .500 for the first time since April 2001.
Reggie Evans Starting Again
Without the Lopez, the Nets’ starting lineup continues to be shaken up. Kris Humphries will again come off the bench, with normal “Bench Mob” members Andray Blatche and Reggie Evans getting the start.
Evans won’t score many points, but he’ll be needed tonight as a presence on the glass against Knicks’ center Tyson Chandler. Chandler is averaging 10.0 rebounds per game this season.
Evans pulled down nine rebounds and had four steals in 27 minutes of action in the Nets’ 97-88 loss Sunday to the Bucks, but he also accounted for five turnovers.
Production from the Bench
So Lopez is out, we know this, but that is no excuse for the entire team to forget how to score the basketball. The Nets will need increased offensive production from the bench in order to match the scoring of the Knicks’ second unit featuring J.R. Smith and Steve Novak.
MarShon Brooks had a strong effort off the bench, so expect him to him significant minutes tonight. Jerry Stackhouse will also be counted upon to knock down his patented corner threes.
With the Nets lacking depth, this is the perfect opportunity for Mirza Teletovic to step up and make a difference. While his defense isn’t great, he can be a legitimate three-point threat. Teletovic just needs to gain the confidence that he can score in the NBA, and he’ll have a chance tonight.
C.J. Watson has also been conspicuously absent lately. He has a combined 21 points and six assists during the Nets’ four-game losing streak, after being one of the leaders of the “Bench Mob” to start the season.
Guard against the Three-Ball
During the Nets’ four-game losing streak, opposing teams are shooting 43.5 percent from beyond the arc. The Knicks make their living from three-point land, so Brooklyn’s perimeter defense must show up.
In the first meeting, the Knicks were without Jason Kidd, who missed the game with lower back spasms. He finished with 17 points against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday, including making three of his four three-point attempts.
If the Knicks start drilling three-pointers early, it could be a long, frustrating night for the Nets.
Melo Wants Revenge
So far, Carmelo Anthony’s only memory of Barclays Center is missing the would-be game-winning shot that sent the Nov. 26 contest that the Nets won in overtime. After a slow first quarter, Melo picked up the intensity to the tune of 35 points and 13 rebounds.
Melo recently missed two games due to stiches on his left hand, but he returned to score 34 points Sunday against his old team. He comes into tonight’s contest ranking third in the NBA in scoring at 26.8 points per game and has averaged 30.1 points over his last eight games.
Melo is looking to write a new chapter in his Brooklyn history, but the Nets will hope to make it two straight in the “Battle of the Boroughs.”
The action tips off at 7:00 P.M. and can be seen on ESPN, MSG and the YES Network.