The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets battled for the first time on Monday night, with Brooklyn coming out on top. The Nets defeated the Knicks at the Barclays Center in an overtime victory, 96-89.
Ever since the Nets moved from New Jersey, there has been a debate about who has the best team in the Big Apple. Both teams have made major trades in the past few seasons to position themselves atop the Eastern Conference.
The Knicks started out the 2012-2013 season hotter than any other team, winning their first six games. Now, they’ve lost three of their last four and are tied with the Nets for first place in the Atlantic Division.
When former Atlanta Hawks guard Joe Johnson was traded to Brooklyn, he said his new club was the best team in New York. Does the Nets win on Monday legitimize Johnson’s claim?
After the Nets victory, it might be hard to argue with Johnson’s statement. Both teams stand at 9-4, but Brooklyn has the head-to-head victory. With their recent struggles, it could be argued that the Knicks are reverting back to the average team that they’ve been the past couple of seasons.
Much of the success that New York had in the first few games doesn’t appear to be sustainable. The Knicks have made 11.7 three-pointers per contest, almost three more than the Miami Heat, who are the second-best team from behind the arc. It will be extremely hard for the Knicks to continue to take so many attempts from long distance, and make over 40 percent of those shots.
New York’s turnover rate has also been extraordinary. Averaging less than 11.4 turnovers per contest, the Knicks have improved from being one of the most careless teams last season. In their losses, the Knicks are showing signs that their turnover number will rise, as they’ve committed at least 14 in three of their last four games.
Brooklyn has played very well of late. They’ve won three in a row, including victories against the Knicks and first-place Los Angeles Clippers.
On Monday, the Nets showed that they are clearly superior to the Knicks in a few key areas. At point guard, Deron Williams made Raymond Felton look pedestrian. Williams’s defense forced Felton to miss 16 of his 19 shot attempts. Williams dished out 14 assists in the win.
The Nets also have an advantage in the frontcourt. With Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries in the starting lineup, as well as Andray Blatche and Reggie Evans coming off the bench, Brooklyn makes it very tough for New York to do damage inside. Players like Kurt Thomas, Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace have size, but they are in the twilight of their careers.
However, it might be too soon to make a judgment after just 13 games and one head-to-head matchup. The Knicks did look dominant in the first few weeks, and will get several additions as the season moves along. Amare Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert will return to the team in a few weeks, and there’s no telling how either player will affect the club.
New York also has a weapon that Brooklyn can’t match. Carmelo Anthony looked unstoppable at times, scoring 35 points in the loss. He seemed to run out of gas after playing 50 minutes, but the Nets don’t have a scorer of his caliber.
Yes, the Nets beat the Knicks, but the game was one of the closest played by anyone this year. New York led for much of the way, and Brooklyn needed an extra five minutes to beat their cross-town rivals. Jason Kidd, one of the keys to New York’s resurgence, missed the game with back spasms, and could’ve changed the outcome, had he been available.
The Knicks might not be able to keep up the pace in which they started the year, but they showed in Brooklyn that they will remain competitive with the NBA’s best. Playing the Nets on the road, it would have been one of their better wins all season long.
The Knicks will get a chance to face the Nets at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 19.