The second Battle of the Boroughs takes place tomorrow night, when the New York Knicks head across the Manhattan Bridge to visit the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center for the second time this season. Both teams initially met on Nov. 26, and the Nets managed a 96-89 overtime victory thanks to 22 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks by Brook Lopez and 14 assists by Deron Williams.
New York has since gone 6-1, whereas Brooklyn has gone 2-4. The Nets are currently on a four-game losing streak and have been without Lopez for each of those games. He has been fighting a sore foot, and his size has been missed.
Lopez may return against the Knicks, but New York's defense may be able to go toe to toe with Brooklyn's this time around. The Knicks are fired up after handily defeating the Miami Heat for the second time this season, and they are all the more dangerous now that Carmelo Anthony is back in the lineup.
The Nets, on the other hand, are starting to show their flaws. The Knicks will take full advantage of that, looking to avenge their first loss against their rivals and come away with a big win this time.
Time: Tuesday, Dec. 11th, 7:00 p.m. EST
TV: ESPN, YES, MSG
Records: New York Knicks (15-5), vs. Brooklyn Nets (11-8)
Betting Lines: Not available as of Monday, Dec. 10, 4:28 p.m.
Injuries: Brook Lopez (foot; game-time decision), Amar'e Stoudemire (knee; out), Iman Shumpert (knee; out), Marcus Camby (foot; day-to-day), Rasheed Wallace (foot; questionable)
Key Storyline: Can the Knicks Avenge Their First Loss in Brooklyn?
The Knicks did a good job of staying in the game the first time they faced the Nets this season, but fatigue set in at overtime. Even before then, however, it was clear how much the team was struggling against Brooklyn. The team shot just 29 percent from three-point range, and Jason Kidd missing the game with back spasms proved to be a big loss.
Of course, Kidd is back in the lineup and feeling better, which means that the Knicks will be playing with a full deck against the Nets the second time around. His clutch three-point shooting and defense have been a godsend for the team this year, and playing against his former team will only add some fireworks.
The Nets still have a good shot at winning this game. Deron Williams is slowly starting to get over his shooting woes, as is shooting guard Joe Johnson. Both men are the offensive catalysts for the Nets, and both can take full control of the game if their shots start falling.
Brooklyn also has something else riding on this game—their perfect record against Atlantic Division teams. Head coach Avery Johnson will surely rally his players behind that as well as the rivalry with the Knicks, which should make for an incredible game.
This one is definitely going to be close, but just how close depends on some other factors.
Key Matchup: Ronnie Brewer vs. Gerald Wallace
The first time the Knicks faced the Nets, they had to adjust their lineup to account for Kidd not being able to play. This meant shifting Carmelo Anthony to small forward, starting Kurt Thomas at power forward and having Ronnie Brewer play shooting guard.
Brewer did a fine job of keeping Joe Johnson out of the game, limiting him to eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, but this left Gerald Wallace in a prime position to have a good game with a weaker pest defending him. He ended up scoring 16 points and also played a key role of shutting down the Knicks' three-point game.
This time, the matchups are as they should be. Brewer and Wallace are two of the best pests in the game, which will make for a great battle on the floor. Both are the same size at 6'7", with Brewer outweighing Wallace by five pounds at 225, but Wallace is a superior athlete.
Wallace can also be a factor on offense, whereas Brewer's best strength is his defense. If he scores at all, it's usually by means of a corner three-pointer or a layup.
Wallace can sink threes, too, but he also has a good jumper and drives the lane well.
The fact is that with Kidd in the Knicks' lineup, the man known as "Crash" will not be able to run rampant on offense like he did in the first game between these two teams. Wallace is going to have to fight past Brewer's defense for most of the evening and also try and stop the former Arkansas Razorback's improved offensive game.
It's going to be the matchup of the game, and whoever wins it will be on the winning team.
X-Factor: J.R. Smith
Smith is in a funk, and the Knicks need him to get out of it ASAP. He has averaged 12 points and 4.6 rebounds over his last five games, but he has shot just 27 percent from the field and 23 percent from long range over that stretch.
That isn't to say Smith has been a disappointment this season. He is still averaging 13.7 points and five rebounds per contest and shooting a respectable 37 percent from long range, although his overall field-goal percentage has dropped to 38.
Smith must therefore be completely focused against the Nets. He only managed five points against them in the Knicks' first meeting and shot just 2-of-7 from the floor.
He simply needs to be the J.R. Smith of old as the X-factor. He cannot rely solely on his three-pointer and must not be afraid to dish the ball off to a teammate. If he must take the shot, he needs to have confidence in his inside scoring and also his mid-range game.
This should not be an issue for Smith, who can throw down some sick dunks on top of being able to sink some pretty threes. It's just a matter of him picking his shots conservatively and letting Carmelo Anthony be the alpha dog when the two of them are on the floor together.
If he can do just that and succeed, New York's odds of winning dramatically increase.
The Knicks may have looked tired in their first matchup against the Nets, but that will not be the case the second time. New York will be back at full strength now that Kidd is in the lineup, and his leadership will be a key difference-maker against young and feisty Brooklyn.
Carmelo Anthony will also continue to be the team's best option on offense, sinking shots from anywhere on the floor and receiving plenty of help from his teammates. Tyson Chandler will register yet another double-double and dominate the glass on both ends of the floor while Brook Lopez plays and shakes off the rust.
Ronnie Brewer and Gerald Wallace will battle to a near stalemate, but Brewer's ability to take Wallace's scoring out of the game will play a big role in the Knicks' dominant and defensive win. In the second unit, Smith will struggle to find his shot at first, but he will then slowly start choosing them carefully and make clutch field goals in the second half. He will score in double-figures but not so high that his field-goal percentage gets a bit ridiculous.
Who will win?
The Nets will do all they can to make this game tough for their crosstown rivals, but their overall youth won't be enough to stop the Knicks this time. Kidd will give them a lesson in how to play defense, essentially taking Joe Johnson out of the game once again and forcing Deron Williams to either handle the scoring himself or go to a rusty Lopez.
Brooklyn will go on a run here and there, but the Knicks will find a way to counter that offense with their incredible defense. This game is New York's to lose, and they will be sure to walk out winners.
New York Knicks 109, Brooklyn Nets 100