The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets will face off for the third time this year in a Saturday night matchup between the crosstown rivals.
- New York Knicks (8-18)
- Brooklyn Nets (9-18)
- NBA, East, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, 7:30 p.m. ET, MSG, YES
- Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
NEW YORK, NEW YORK—The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets are in similar places. Entering the season, both were in the midst of rebuilds. The Knicks knew the season would be up and down at times without their superstar, Kristaps Porzingis. The Nets believed they had developed to the point where they could contend for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
But things have changed since mid-October. Let’s take a look at the earlier matchups between these teams. Moreover, let’s take a look at where these teams stand as we approach 2019.
The crosstown rivals will meet four times this year. Thus far, the two sides have split their two meetings with the Nets winning a close one in Barclays on Oct. 19 and the Knicks securing a blowout victory at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 29.
The first matchup featured a last-second shot by Caris LeVert to give the Nets a 107-105 victory. It was a tough loss for the Knicks to swallow, but strong performances from Tim Hardaway Jr. and Enes Kanter gave Knicks fans some hope that New York would keep things competitive this year.
On the other hand, a standout performance from LeVert, punctuated by his game-winning floater, gave Nets fans hope that they had found their star. LeVert went off for 28 points on 13 shots. He also chipped in six rebounds and five assists for good measure. More on LeVert later, but their win in the second game of the season should have been a sign of things to come.
▪️ Russell and Dinwiddie Punish the Raps
▪️ RHJ Gets His Stop
▪️ About the Knicks
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) December 8, 2018
Fast forward almost two weeks later and the Knicks would have their chance at redemption. David Fizdale’s squad wouldn’t squander their chance. They jumped out to a first-half lead, which ballooned to an 18-point lead after three quarters. The Knicks would cruise to an easy victory, as both teams moved to 2-5 on the season.
The main difference in their second meeting revolved around LeVert. The star swingman was held to four points on 2-for-11 shooting. Without LeVert’s production, the Nets would be in some trouble. Unfortunately, that leads us into where Brooklyn finds themselves now.
Where Are They Now? -- Brooklyn Nets
The Nets are coming off one of their best wins of the season—an overtime victory over Kawhi Leonard and the first place Toronto Raptors. That being said, it was their first win in nine games and it stopped an unbelievable losing streak.
Brooklyn is having trouble holding onto leads and closing out games down the stretch. Of course, their blowout loss to the Knicks was evidence that the Nets would struggle when LeVert struggled. But unfortunately for the Nets, a gruesome injury to LeVert on Nov. 12 means that he’s out of the lineup for a few months, at the very least.
Brooklyn is still trying to find their footing after losing their star player. The Nets are just 3-10 without LeVert and they are on the outside of the playoff picture with a record of 9-18. Friday’s win against Toronto was a step in the right direction, but they’ll need to follow that up with a win against the Knicks on Saturday.
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) December 8, 2018
Where Are They Now? -- New York Knicks
The Knicks aren’t far behind the Nets in the standings. They have a record of 8-18 so they’re a half game behind the Nets to be exact. But wins and losses are secondary to player development for the Nets this year.
Well, the belief at the start of the year was that this season was all about player development. Frank Ntilikina hasn’t played in three games and the 20-year-old lottery pick is struggling to find his place in the rotation. Perhaps this is just Fizdale’s way of trying to reach out to the athletic point guard. A few games from the bench could give the Frenchman a different point of view and it might serve as a motivating factor.
Ntilikina has had success against the Nets in his career and the dynamic backcourt pairing of D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie calls for a strong perimeter defender. Despite his relegation to the bench, Ntilikina is undoubtedly the best perimeter defender on the Knicks. Expect to see Ntilikina back in the rotation. It will be interesting to see how he responds.
Looking at the bigger picture, the Knicks are experiencing all the peaks and valleys that one would expect a young team to endure. They are beating some of the best teams in the league like the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, and Memphis Grizzlies.
But on the other hand, they’ve suffered a few blowout losses to teams like the Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards, and Miami Heat.
In other words, the Knicks have the potential to play with any team in the league. But they also have the potential to lay an egg on any given night.
Both teams have a lot to play for on Saturday. As much as some would love to downplay the rivalry, there does seem to be a healthy rivalry brewing in New York.
While the Nets look to build on their Friday night victory over the Raptors, the Knicks are looking to prove that they’re the best team in New York this year. Expect a close one, but watch for D’Angelo Russell to assume the role of closer for the Nets.
Brooklyn wins 118-115 as Russell goes off for at least 30 points.