To Brooklyn fans, Monday night's overtime victory over the Knicks felt a bit like this:
THE NETS WIN THE NBA CHAMPIONSHIP!— devin kharpertian (@uuords) November 27, 2012
Let us settle down a bit and merely consider the possibility that Brooklyn is the superior NBA team. Based on what little information we have, I would still err on the Knicks' side. They have better three-point shooters and a better defensive center. They also have a superior perimeter scorer in Carmelo Anthony (Joe Johnson has not impressed so far). But, Monday night's game delivered some fodder for Nets fans who claim superiority.
One matchup swings decisively in Brooklyn's favor: They have a much, much better point guard. Raymond Felton conjured bad New York memories of John Starks against the Rockets in his 3-19 semi-implosion. It was difficult to tell whether Felton's play was the result of overconfidence or sheer terror, but man, he was awful.
It wasn't just that Felton was missing shots. It was also that he was missing terrible shots, well out of the offensive rhythm. In pregame, noted Knicks fan @netw3rk made the following observation:
IMO Ray gets sucked into these marquee one-on-one matchups. Happened in the Houston game too.— netw3rk (@netw3rk) November 27, 2012
This is a situation worth monitoring, especially when New York faces tougher tests in the playoffs.
On the other end, Deron Williams was a ubiquitous force:
Deron was off on his jumper, but he more than made up for it with his passing. The 14 assists actually belie his impact, as Brook Lopez (and a few other Net players) missed easy conversions off incisive mid-paint Williams passes. The game was a big reminder of just why this guy got, and likely deserves, a max contract.
Speaking of max contracts, Brook Lopez will never be Tyson Chandler on defense (note: Chandler was incredible on Monday), but he's making strides on the defensive end. Lopez had five blocks to pair with a good offensive performance. His preseason signing looked brutal, but he's played up to it in these first few months.
But the X-factor, and main reason as to why Brooklyn can beat New York, is he made decisive, winning plays in the overtime. Gerald Wallace didn't have a perfect game, but then again, his game almost necessitates an element of imperfection. "Crash" is an agent of chaos, a wild player who makes his living tripping over defenders in midair. It's just the cost of doing business for Brooklyn's most versatile player.
That versatility could give BK the edge come springtime. Carmelo Anthony had a productive offensive game, but so much of the damage came from the free-throw line (on some cheap calls, quite frankly) and from off-the-dribble three-pointers.
When Carmelo Anthony got the ball against Wallace, life became rather difficult. As a hybrid 3/4 player, Anthony usually finds the mismatch against opposing defenders. Against Crash, another hybrid 3/4, there is no defensive mismatch to be found. Wallace will push right back when Anthony backs him down in the post.
Against Brooklyn, the Knicks might not have the mismatch they usually claim. Since so much of what they do is predicated on Carmelo Anthony breaking down defenses and kicking to three-point shooters (The Knicks shot 28 percent from three on Monday), Wallace could pose a serious challenge to the Knicks' New York supremacy.