New York basketball teams are a combined 10-2 so far in 2014. Heading into the New Year, the Knicks and Nets combined for 19 wins and 42 losses. It appears 2014 has given them new life, though, as both teams have started to turn it around and have done so in pretty impressive fashion.
Brooklyn began the turnaround on January 2, when Joe Johnson floated in a buzzer beater and completed a surreal Nets comeback. Meanwhile, their crosstown rivals were taking care of the Spurs as Iman Shumpert finally broke out of his slump.
Two road wins against the top two teams in the West on the same night? While it seemed very unlikely, the Knicks and Nets may have jumpstarted their seasons with those wins.
So who can keep the streak going? Which team is in better shape to continue its recent success?
There can be cases made for and against both teams, so we’ll look through why the Nets and the Knicks can each say that they have it better.
Case for the Nets
The Nets have had very impressive wins over the Thunder, the Hawks, the Heat and the extremely hot Golden State Warriors. They have not allowed 100 points in any of their six games in 2014, which is their longest streak of the season.
Their defense has looked increasingly impressive thanks to a total team effort. The Nets are getting defensive contributions out of everyone, which is something they have not had at other times this season.
The new small-ball lineup that features Paul Pierce starting at power forward can also be attributed to Brooklyn’s success. Pierce has played mostly at the 4 throughout this six-game span, and it is working for him and the team.
Pierce is averaging 15.5 points per game in the month of January after just 12.8 in December and 12.1 in November. The Truth is not the only former Celtic who has shown signs of life in 2014, though. Kevin Garnett has shown some brief moments of existence during this streak.
After a 13-point performance against the Warriors, Garnett followed it up with a 12-point game in 36 minutes against the Heat. The 37-year-old went 10-for-15 shooting combined in those two games and reached double digits in back-to-back games for the first time this year.
Shaun Livingston has also been a huge part of the Nets' recent run. The 6’7” point guard has been doing everything from scoring to passing to blocking shots. Livingston’s best game came during the double OT win over the Heat in which he played 51 minutes and scored 19 points.
If Livingston, Pierce and Garnett can all continue their improved play when Deron Williams returns, there is no reason the Nets can’t keep winning games.
Case for the Knicks
The Knicks have had their share of good wins also, including wins over the Spurs, Mavericks, Heat and Pistons.
After a Christmas Day smacking from the Thunder, the Knicks were looking to take two games from the division-leading Raptors. The Knicks didn’t do that, though, as they were without Carmelo Anthony for both games and were completely outplayed by Toronto.
The Knicks got back on track with a huge win in San Antonio to start the year. Carmelo is back, and the Knicks have been rolling ever since.
Anthony has been really great in 2014. Averaging over 25 points per game along with 8.0 rebounds and 4.2 assists, he has been an absolute force. The most impressive thing from 'Melo may be his three-point shooting. In the month of January, 'Melo is shooting 48.3-percent from downtown, including a 6-for-7 performance against the Pistons.
Anthony is not the only Knick to heat up in 2014 as the Iman Shumpert everyone has been looking for has finally returned. Twenty-seven points against the Spurs on 10-of-13 shooting and 26 the next night had Knicks fans feeling good about their 23-year-old guard.
Though Shump’s scoring has cooled off since those two games, he’s still been playing well. Shumpert has been hitting his threes, which is exactly what the Knicks need from him. The 55.9-percent shooting from downtown has been supplemented by great defense and an ability to rebound the ball.
Iman is finally playing the way fans and the Knicks expected him to all year long, and if he can continue that, the Knicks will be in good shape.
Along with Shumpert, the entire team's defense has looked improved. In the last four games, the Knicks have not allowed an opponent to score over 92 points—their longest such streak of the season.
If the Knicks can continue their solid team defense to go along with the play of Carmelo Anthony and Iman Shumpert, they are in good shape to continue winning.
Can Either Team Sustain This Success?
Both teams have their reasoning for why they’ll succeed. The issue is that they might both be fooling us.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett could return to post-Celtics, pre-2014 form, and the defense may struggle to continue playing effectively.
The Knicks' issues are just as glaring, if not worse. Even when the Knicks are winning, they end up making the news in a negative way. Recently, it was due to J.R. Smith’s sudden love for untying shoelaces resulting in a bizarre $50,000 fine and a benching from Mike Woodson. With the Knicks playing as well as they are, they are still a mess of an organization.
The Nets would still be undefeated this calendar year if they hadn’t completely ran out of gas on Saturday night when they traveled to Toronto to take on the Raptors. Brooklyn was coming off a double overtime win against the Heat just a day earlier. The Knicks could also very well be undefeated in 2014 had it not been for J.R. Smith doing J.R. Smith things against the Rockets.
The Knicks have four games in five nights this week before they host the Nets on January 20. The Nets will have just one game prior to that matchup, so should be very well rested.
The matchup of the Knicks and Nets could be a good one if the teams are still competing at their current level of play. But both teams will need to prove it for more than six games if they want to seriously gain respect from teams and fans around the league.