More than three weeks after originally scheduled, the Nets and Knicks will meet for the first time this season when the orange and blue invade Barclays Center tonight. The game will be broadcast nationally, and the country will get a matchup that (perhaps somewhat surprisingly) features the two teams at the top of the Atlantic Division.
The Knicks come in as the division leaders, sporting a 9-3 record after Sunday’s win, while the Nets are just a game behind at 8-4 after topping Portland last night. That win gave Brooklyn a 7-1 record at Barclays Center this year, and pushing that to 8-1 will give them a share of the division lead before they head out on a three-game road trip tomorrow.
One of the key matchups in the game will be at center, as Brook Lopez and Tyson Chandler clash for the first time as intra-city rivals. Lopez has been a focal point of the Nets’ offense this season, averaging 15.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game so far, but he’s got perhaps his toughest matchup of the season tonight against the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
It will be up to Lopez to set the tone early; he is averaging 7.9 points (on 68.8 percent shooting) in the first quarter this year and the Nets are 4-1 when he scores double digits in the first 12 minutes,
Another matchup to watch will be that of Carmelo Anthony against Kris Humphries and possibly Reggie Evans. Anthony, who has been starting at the four in the absence of Amar’e Stoudemire, is currently third in the league in scoring, but as Nets beat writer Tim Bontemps of the New York Post noted in his blog earlier today, Anthony has a common thread in all three Knicks losses: foul trouble.
Humphries (and Lopez) did a good job of contesting his drives during their preseason game at Nassau Coliseum, and will hope to do so again tonight. In addition, Reggie Evans can also be an important factor in Operation Shutdown; Evans is averaging 8.0 rebounds per game, had a season-high 14 boards Sunday vs. Portland, and is averaging a league-high 20.8 per 48 minutes, so he will command a presence down low and, if and when paired with Lopez, can allow Lopez to be a little more committed to Anthony defensively.
Other notes of interest:
-Tornike Shengelia (sprained thumb) is inactive tonight, and it is likely that for the third straight game, Mirza Teletovic will join him on the sidelines as the Nets’ healthy scratch. Avery Johnson said prior to Friday’s game that with Gerald Wallace back in his regular routine, Teletovic would likely miss a lot of the upcoming contests, as they were playing a lot of teams who like to run small lineups, the Knicks included.
-Brooklyn has held its opponents to 15 points or less in the fourth quarter and 35 or less in the second half in two straight games, but the Knicks are coming off a 121-100 win over Detroit that saw them hit 35 in the final 12 minutes alone…so something will have to give.