By Kenneth Teape (@teapester725)
It was not the matchup people had expected coming into the season as the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets faced off for the first time this season with less than stellar records. The Knicks came in on a nine-game losing streak and a 3-13 record, while the Nets were not much better at 5-13. It had the makings of an ugly game as both teams are dealing with injuries to important players; Tyson Chandler for the Knicks, Paul Pierce and Deron Williams for the Nets. The head coaches were also coming under fire as Mike Woodson seemed to be on the hottest of seats of any NBA coach and Jason Kidd was making headlines for demoting his top assistant Lawrence Frank earlier in the week. An ugly game is exactly what it turned into, at least for one of the teams.
The Knicks came out and played by far their best game of the season, blowing the Nets out 113-83 at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, which has become their home away from home. The Knicks fans far outnumbered the Nets fans as multiple Knicks chants were heard throughout the night as the Knicks led wire-to-wire.
The Knicks slowed down a little in the second quarter, having their shooting percentage drop to 59 at halftime, but took a 50-43 lead into the break. The Nets were able to stay in the game solely because of the advantage they held in the rebounding department, specifically on the offensive glass. The Nets finished the night with 15 offensive rebounds with more than half of them courtesy of Brook Lopez, who finished the game with eight offensive rebounds and nine all together. Without them the score would have been even more of an eye sore.
After halftime, the third quarter specifically, is when the Knicks have had their struggles. Tonight they were facing the NBA’s worst third quarter team in the Nets though so something had to give. Thankfully for Knicks fans it was the Knicks who came out on top in the third quarter, opening the game up to blowout per potions as a seven point halftime lead for the Knicks turned into a 25 point lead by the end of the third quarter. Iman Shumpert had quite possibly his best game of the year, scoring a season-high tying 17 points, 11 of which came in the tide turning third quarter. Shumpert lit the Nets up from beyond the arc, shooting an impressive five of seven from three point land.
The Knicks reserve players did not let up off the gas as they extended the lead to as many as 35 points in the fourth quarter as they continued pouring it on, led by 12 points from rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. Alongside Hardaway Jr. Amar’e Stoudemire also had his best all-around game of the season, scoring 11 points on five of six shooting from the field to go with four rebounds and one block in 19 minutes of play. J.R. Smith had an efficient night as well from the field, going three of six overall and two of four from the three point line, adding three rebounds and one assist.
On the night the stats really do not even do full justice in showing how much the Knicks outplayed the Nets tonight. The Knicks dominated virtually every facet of the game as a highly efficient offense mixed with lockdown defense equaled a blowout win over the rival Nets. The Nets plodding offense was unable to get anything going tonight even against what has been a porous Knicks defense. Outside of Lopez the Nets only had one other player in double-figures scoring, Joe Johnson’s 13 on four of 15 shooting from the field. On the other hand the Knicks had six players score in double-figures and got it going early and often throughout the game from beyond the arc, shooting 16 of 27 on the night, good for 59.3 percent and 57.1 percent overall from the field. The Nets shot an unsightly four of 16 from the three point line, good for only 25 percent and 39.7 percent overall from the field. It is hard to imagine but without Lopez dominating in the post for most of the night the Nets would have been facing deficits of all-time highs.
Even with the game being a blowout there were still some tempers flaring, as expected in a rivalry game. One of the culprits was no surprise as Kevin Garnett found himself once again in the middle of an altercation against the Knicks; the other participant will surprise many as it was the seven-foot Italian Bargnani. Bargnani and Garnett got tangled up for a loose ball foul early in the fourth quarter that looked like Bargnani had initiated most of the contact that resulted in a double-technical for Garnett and Bargnani. The next possession down the court Garnett fouled Bargnani, which was followed up with Bargnani knocking down a jump shot with Garnett half-heartedly guarding him. What happened next was something no one could have predicted as Bargnani talked trash to Garnett going up the court and was subsequently thrown out of the game by referee Joey Crawford. The fact that Bargnani wasn’t afraid to get into Garnett and never backed down even after Garnett did his fake tough guy act was something Knicks fans had to love seeing from Bargnani, who many people have labeled overly soft and not fit for New York. At least for one night Bargnani won over the New York faithful standing up to Garnett and then giving him a taste of his own medicine even though it resulted in his ejection.
Some notes to wrap up the post game: This is the first time in the history of the Nets that they lost consecutive home games by 20+ points, the first of the two coming at the hands of the Denver Nuggets. This was also the third largest win ever for the Knicks over the Nets and largest in more than 20 years, April 21st, 1993 (courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info Twitter Page). The Nets also became the first team this season to lose multiple games by 30+ points (also courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info Twitter Page). The Knicks and Nets will face off again January 20th at 2:30 PM ET at Madison Square Garden.