Who Has a Better Shot of Challenging Heat in Eastern Conference, Knicks or Nets?

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Who Has a Better Shot of Challenging Heat in Eastern Conference, Knicks or Nets?
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In the first official battle of New York City, the Brooklyn Nets played host to the New York Knicks at Barclays Center. The game was one to remember, as the Nets capitalized on five overtime points from Jerry Stackhouse to escape 96-89.

With one in the books, our attention now shifts to the bigger picture. Come the postseason, who has the better shot of challenging the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference? The Knicks or Nets?

Each team makes an interesting case, as they have the stars and depth necessary to make a run through the playoffs. With the likes of Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler leading New York and Deron Williams and Joe Johnson leading Brooklyn, you're certain to see fireworks regardless of which team you tune into.

The question is: Which team is cut out for the daunting task of winning multiple seven-game series?

Considering the Knicks haven't won a series in over a decade, one might be inclined to say Brooklyn. Just don't let history dictate this renewed rivalry.

Each team has their weapons and vulnerabilities. Both the Knicks and Nets are capable of making a run at any time, partially due to the postseason experience of the players on their respective rosters.

But what else goes into this battle of the boroughs?

Unfortunately, there can only be one who reigns supreme in New York City and the Eastern Conference alike. As for who is more likely to achieve said feat, allow the following pieces of evidence to answer just that.

That is, if you believe paper predictions.

 

Making Their Case: Knicks

Which New York franchise has a better chance of making the Eastern Conference finals?

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The New York Knicks began the 2012-13 season at 6-0. Since then, they've lost four of their past seven games.

For that reason, there is likely to be a strong community of people who label the Knicks as a fluke team that simply had a hot start. In the words of the great Lee Corso, "Not so fast, my friend!"

Since Mike Woodson took over the Knicks, they are 27-10. That is not a hot start, but a sustained level of regular season greatness—greatness that suggests the Knicks could secure at least one round of home-court advantage.

Why is that significant? Try this on for size.

Since Woodson became head coach, the Knicks are 16-1 at Madison Square Garden. Including the postseason, they are 17-2.

That includes a 2-2 home record against the Miami Heat.

On the road, they're a solid 11-9. This sets the Knicks up to be a legitimate force in the Eastern Conference that could potentially make it to the conference finals with the right draw of home-court advantage, something their regular season abilities suggest they will achieve.

With star scorers in Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith, they can fill up the net. Throw in sharpshooter Steve Novak and you have yourself a virtual lock for 95-plus points per night.

And that is more than enough for N.Y.

With solid-to-elite defenders such as Tyson Chandler, Marcus Camby, Ronnie Brewer and Iman Shumpert, the Knicks are as good as any at locking opponents down. As for those "their defense is a fluke" naysayers, how about this?

In 37 games under Mike Woodson, the Knicks are allowing an average of 92.9 points per game.

That's not a fluke, ladies and gentlemen, but a sign of a truly dominant defensive unit. Keep in mind, any momentum built would have withered away during the offseason.

They're still kicking, allowing just 95.5 points per game in 2012-13. Take away the outlier of a 131-point performance by Jeremy Lin and the Houston Rockets and you're at 92.5.

 

Making Their Case: Nets

The Brooklyn Nets are the Memphis Grizzlies of the Eastern Conference.

The Nets were built under the premise that it was a necessity to have a player between quality and elite at each starting position. They were also built with the idea that it took an elite defensive player on the perimeter and a dominant rebounder to allow the scorers on the team to flourish.

The difference is, Brooklyn has the star power to command attention. Memphis will just blow you out of the building before you know what hit you.

With Deron Williams and Joe Johnson as the Nets' backcourt, the final minute of a game will be nothing short of chaos for opponents. Johnson is one of the most clutch scorers in the game, while Williams has carved out a reputation as the same type of threat with both passing and shooting.

According to 82games.com, Johnson ranked eighth amongst NBA players in terms of points per 48 minutes of clutch play in 2011-12. Williams ranked first amongst NBA players in terms of assists per 48 minutes of clutch.

Early season struggles be gone.

Next up is Gerald Wallace, who has developed a reputation as one of the most dominant defenders in the NBA. Due to his size, power and athleticism, Wallace can smother an opponent at any of the perimeter positions.

He can also man-up and alter the shot of even the top interior scorers. Although he lacks any defined skills offensively, Wallace plays a Tony Allen type of role in Brooklyn.

Which takes us to the frontcourt.

Rebounding menace Kris Humphries and the resurrected-from-injury Brook Lopez are as solid a combination as you'll find. For those who haven't noticed, Lopez is in the midst of an outstanding season in which he is averaging 19.2 points per game.

Humphries, meanwhile, is expected to achieve his third consecutive season with at least 10.0 rebounds per game.

Unfortunately, what we've seen thus far is all we have to go on with the Nets. Brooklyn had their opportunities to build chemistry limited by injury or the recent nature of the acquisition of talent such as Johnson and Wallace.

Even still, they too are a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference. A mere evaluation of their talent confirms that.

Just don't forget about MarShon Brooks.

 

The Nets defeated the Knicks 96-89 in an overtime thriller. The Battle for New York has been won, but the war has just begun.

Final Verdict

The New York Knicks are a team that is certain to play smothering defense, dominate their home court and put forth a solid enough effort on the road. In turn, they are a legitimate threat to make it to the Eastern Conference finals.

So where does that leave the Nets?

Brooklyn is a team that is made up of All-Star caliber talent. With Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez leading the way, you almost begin to forget about the significant development of Kris Humphries.

That and the solid amount of depth MarShon Brooks and the reserves provide.

Unfortunately, the Nets are surrounded by too many questions to pass off a label as legitimate just yet. Deron Williams has two Western Conference finals appearances under his belt, but other than that, this team is built with relative postseason inexperience in terms of making it beyond the second round.

So what is it that clinches this one? Just that: the Knicks' postseason experience.

The Knicks are led by 2011 NBA champion and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler. Alongside Chandler are elite scorers such as Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, as well as sharpshooter Steve Novak.

They also have an efficient game-changer in J.R. Smith. Who ever thought we'd say that?

Paired with the consistent likes of former NBA champion Jason Kidd and defensive guru Marcus Camby, the Knicks have the defense and postseason experience necessary to make a run. Just don't forget one thing.

Nets head coach Avery Johnson has been to the NBA Finals before. The question is, which New York franchise has the best shot to make it now?

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