Seconds out! Round three of New York’s Battle of the Boroughs takes place tonight at Madison Square Garden (7pm ET, ESPN) and, with the season series tied at one win apiece, tickets prices for the game are historically high.
Bloomberg reports the average price for tickets on the resale market is a whopping 630 dollars, the highest for any NBA game this season.
But will the lucky 16,000 at MSG get their money’s worth tonight?
The Knicks (18-6) confirmed Carmelo Anthony, who has missed their last two games with a sprained ankle, will practice today. Melo, who averages 40 points per game over his two meetings with the Nets this season, confirmed he would be a game-time decision but would not step on the court unless he feels 100 per cent.
The Knicks also have injury worries over Rasheed Wallace, who missed the 109-96 defeat to Houston with a sore foot. Marcus Camby and Amare Stoudemire remain longer-term absentees.
Regardless of who takes the court for the Knicks, the Atlantic division leaders will the focused on addressing recent defensive lapses. Despite winning four of their last five games, the Knicks have given up an average of 104.2 PPG in that stretch. Their opponents’ shooting percentage in those games was .497, compared to .447 over their first 19 games.
As coach Mike Woodson observed, the Knicks have recently looked like a team trying out outscore opponents, rather than shut them down.
For the Nets (13-11), local bragging rights will be secondary as they try to arrest their own recent slump in form. Avery Johnson’s men have lost seven of their last 10 match-ups and continue to have problems closing out games.
The Nets have built double digit leads in 18 of their 24 games this season but have lost six of them, including last night’s 92-90 home loss to the Utah Jazz.
For all the hoopla surrounding their move to Brooklyn, the sense persists that something isn’t quite right with the Nets. Deron Williams has expressed his preference for the old offensive system he ran in Utah. Joe Johnson is yet to justify his huge contract. Brook Lopez is yet to discover the dominant form he showed in the season’s opening exchanges. Kris Humphries returned to the starting line-up against Utah having recently been in Avery Johnson’s doghouse.
What to expect tonight:
Knicks to tighten up
Lapsed defence and messy, turnover-strewn offence were hallmarks of the Knicks last home outing. Mike Woodson has demanded a response and, judging by how his players have responded to him to date, he’ll surely get one.
The Knicks are the worst isolation defenders in the NBA, giving up 0.924 points per isolation play. In Joe Johnson, the Nets have the man to exploit this weakness.
With or without Melo, the Knicks will be dialling up from long distance. More than 35% of their total shots come from downtown – an NBA record if they keep it up for the season. No team is more prepared to live or die by the three.
Brook Lopez has his best game of the season, 22 points and 11 rebounds, in the Nets’ first meeting with the Knicks, a game they won in overtime. But it’s the defensive end where his value to the Nets is most apparent. With Lopez starting, the Nets gave up 90.7 PPG in the first 14 games of the season. With Lopez out injured, that figure ballooned to 102.2 PPG.
The Knicks are dangerous with or without Melo. They’ll also want to make up for the embarrassing Houston loss. The Nets are struggling. Home advantage should be decisive. Just. Score prediction: Nets 91, Knicks 94.