RJ Barrett, Kyrie Irving
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets are kicking off a new era of the crosstown rivalry, with plenty on the line in Friday’s grudge match.

  • New York Knicks +9 (0-1)
  • Brooklyn Nets -9 (0-1)
  • NBA, Eastern Conference
  • Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY

The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets will meet on the court for the first time since January. They met on the free-agent market during the summer and Brooklyn won that contest in a landslide.

The Knicks are still trying to recover from a summer that saw Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant snub New York’s team for Brooklyn’s. Although the Knicks are still the team in New York City, Brooklyn’s blockbuster summer has many fans of the orange and blue feeling vulnerable (even if they won’t admit it).

The Knicks are engrained in the fabric of the Big Apple in a way that their crosstown will never reach. The Nets are a Brooklyn transplant by way of New Jersey, much like their star point guard.

Prepare for the two fanbases to litigate their own worth based on the back pages of the newspapers for the foreseeable future. But who “owns” the city is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. The only thing that matters is winning and both teams are in search of their first “W” of the season.

On a night where Knicks fans will likely invade the Barclays Center, the Nets are handing out Kyrie Irving jerseys to fans. Prepare for the first of many grudge matches between two teams fighting for real estate in the same city. These next few years should be fun.

How The Knicks Win

Coming into a game as the underdog is nothing new for the Knicks. However, playing a heavily-favored Brooklyn side is relatively new for the rivalry. The Knicks don’t have a player on the roster in the same stratosphere as Kyrie Irving, but they hold an advantage in other areas, namely their size.

The Knicks were the subject of much ridicule after signing five guys who play power forward during the offseason. Despite the head-scratching from most pundits, the Knicks are a much more physical team than they were during the 2018-19 season.

The Knicks are fashioning themselves as a rugged group who will pop teams in the mouth and won’t apologize for doing so. The Knicks were outrebounded 51-39 by the San Antonio Spurs in the season opener, but the Nets are not nearly as physical as Gregg Popovich’s squad.

Brooklyn is comfortable playing small-ball right out of the gate with Irving, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Taurean Prince, and Jarrett Allen. The Knicks’ frontcourt of Marcus Morris, Julius Randle, and either Mitchell Robinson (questionable) or Bobby Portis should look to exploit this size.

New York must win the battle on the boards if they want to slow down Brooklyn’s high-flying attack. The Knicks signed all these power forwards so they could bully smaller teams like the Nets.

How The Nets Win

The Knicks allowed the highest three-point percentage of any team in the NBA last season. The Nets finished fifth in the league in made threes per game and 14th in percentage. Head coach Kenny Atkinson emphasizes the three-ball and the Knicks are the perfect opponent to employ that style of play against.

With Joe Harris, Taurean Prince, and Kyrie Irving in the starting lineup, the Nets have no shortage of three-point threats. The spread pick-and-roll is a favorite of Atkinson and it could be a recipe for success against the Knickerbockers. Irving is fresh off a 50-point barrage and will be licking his chops to face the Knicks’ porous defense.

If Mitchell Robinson can’t go because of a sprained right ankle, the Nets should go to the pick-and-roll early and often. Portis is a below-average defender who doesn’t want to defend on the perimeter.

None of this is top-secret information, but that doesn’t make it any easier for Knicks head coach David Fizdale to scheme against it. Irving will be the best player on the floor and Karl-Anthony Towns won’t be going shot for shot with him to keep the Nets from pulling away.

As of Thursday night, the Nets are nine-point favorites over the Knicks. On the first Friday of the season, this has the potential to be a classic battle between good and evil (depending on which side you’re repping).

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.