Round 3 of the Battle of the Boroughs tips off tonight, as the Nets make their first trip of the season to Madison Square Garden to take on the Atlantic Division-leading Knicks.
Losers of two straight games, Brooklyn will once again be without Josh Childress and Jerry Stackhouse, who are both inactive while battling foot and knee injuries, respectively. For the Knicks, Carmelo Anthony (sprained ankle) was still a “game-time” decision for Knicks coach Mike Woodson about 90 minutes prior to the game, while sharpshooter Steve Novak will be out because of the flu.
In his pre-game press conference, which you can watch in its entirety here, Nets head coach Avery Johnson said that he was focused on doing a better job of defending the three-point line tonight, which he felt was one of the biggest issues in their 100-97 loss to the Knicks eight nights ago.
“They play to their strengths, and we play to our strengths…they’re a high three-point shooting team, and they have a guy in Anthony that they can get the ball to in a number of ways,” Johnson said. “It’s been a tale of two games in how we’ve defended the three-point line; we did well in game one, but not so well in the second.”
Carmelo Anthony had a game-high 45 points in the Knicks win, and should the league’s second leading scorer be ready to go, he will be the other main focus on the defensive end.
“If he plays, that’s a serious threat, because he plays at a high level all the time; they can throw the ball to him and he can score in a variety of ways,” Johnson said. “He kind of got away from us a little bit in game two, and we have to do a good job of defending him at the basket.”
For Knicks coach Mike Woodson, however, his main focus was on stopping Brook Lopez, who is averaging 14.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game since returning to the lineup last Friday. Johnson has said that any minutes restrictions he may have had on Lopez prior to tonight are off, and Woodson praised the opposing center when asked during his own pre-game presser how the Knicks would handle Lopez, especially if they were shorthanded up front if Anthony is a no-go.
“Lopez is a big target; he can post the basketball, he can play face up, he rebounds all four sides…he’s a load,” Woodson said prior to the game. “We have to deal with that, and Tyson (Chandler) just has to play him and we’ll get him help where and when we can.”
Chandler is the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, but Woodson said that playing a multi-faceted center like Lopez won’t necessarily change what his big man does within the Knicks’ system.
“Every center, in every game we play, is different, so we prepare differently anyway,” Woodson said. “(Lopez) can score, and he can do a little bit of everything (defensively), so we have to watch him everywhere.”
Woodson also had nothing but praise for Nets guard Joe Johnson, whom he coached while both were in Atlanta from 2005-10.
“(Johnson’s) still an All-Star, still a player that can make big shots and get them in bunches. He hit that game-winning shot against Detroit, and he’s always capable of doing that,” Woodson said. “We’ve got to make sure that we try to keep him down as much as possible, especially in those situations.”
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