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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks are shuffling the rotation while the Nets continue to lean on Kevin Durant

It took a little while, but the Battle of the Boroughs is finally here. The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets will meet in Barclays Center for the first of four matchups in 2021-22.

Let’s take a look at the top storylines for each team entering this game, plus take a stab at a prediction for Knicks-Nets.

Knicks Lineup Changes

This is the biggest storyline surrounding the Knicks at the moment. The Kemba Walker experiment is over and rather than elevating the banged-up Derrick Rose to the starting lineup, Tom Thibodeau is going with Alec Burks.

The decision to move Burks into the starting lineup and take Walker out of the rotation entirely should help the Knicks in two ways.

First off, Burks is an upgrade over Walker. He’s a longer, more versatile defender who can help shore up suspect defense from the starters. Offensively, he can do everything Walker does at a higher level.

The other way Burks’ introduction into the starting lineup helps the Knicks is by keeping the core bench group together. Thibs has always been intent on keeping the second unit intact. Derrick Rose, Immanuel Quickley, and Obi Toppin are the heart of the bench. They will keep that second unit humming as Quentin Grimes likely picks up some minutes on the wing.

The Knicks are 1-0 with Burks starting at point guard. Can they make it 2-0 on Tuesday?

Nets Relying on Kevin Durant

Well, if the Knicks are going to have any hope of beating the Nets, they have to figure out a way to slow down Kevin Durant. The former MVP is starting to look like the future MVP. Durant is playing some of the best basketball of his career.

The 11-time All-Star is leading the NBA with 28.6 points per game. Ironically enough, he has the exact same number of points (544) and games played (19) as Stephen Curry, Durant’s former teammate and the other frontrunner to win MVP.

Durant is elevating his game at a time when the Nets need him most. Kyrie Irving‘s absence continues and James Harden still doesn’t look like the Harden of old. Not to mention, Joe Harris is out after undergoing ankle surgery.

Brooklyn is receiving big contributions from role players like LaMarcus Aldridge, Patty Mills, and DeAndre’ Bembry, but this team isn’t even close to first place without Durant’s heroics.

The Knicks won’t be able to stop Durant. No one has quite figured that out yet. However, if they can make his life difficult and make him work for every bucket, they could wear this Brooklyn team down.

Prediction: Nets Win Close

So, the question on everyone’s mind: Who will win the first installment of Knicks-Nets during the 2021-22 season?

All six of Brooklyn’s losses have come to teams with winning records. In fact, the Nets are 6-6 against teams with winning records and a perfect 8-0 against sub-.500 teams.

The Knicks are carrying momentum into this game after beating the Hawks over the weekend. Then again, we have seen this Knicks story unfold before. They have been too inconsistent to really trust in a big spot.

Durant, on the other hand, is the ace in the hole for Brooklyn. New York’s suspect defense is going to have a hard time holding him down.

Prediction: Nets 112, Knicks 104

Check out ESNY’s gameday preview for more information on where to watch this game and potential injury news.

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