The Knicks have been very good away from MSG this season, but they face a unique challenge in the Nets this evening.
The New York Knicks (11-9) travel to Brooklyn to square off with the crosstown rival Nets (14-6), marking the first of four regular-season meetings between these two teams. Despite many bumps in the road, including Kyrie Irving’s vaccine-related absence and James Harden underachieving/adjusting to the NBA’s new foul rules, Brooklyn finds itself atop of the Eastern Conference standings thanks to 33-year-old Kevin Durant, who has put the team on his back, averaging 28.6 points per game, his highest since the 2013–14 season as a member of the Thunder, per ESPN Stats.
Durant and Harden, more so KD this season, can only hope to be contained rather than shut down completely. Steve Nash and co. will be extra reliant on the two superstars, given that the team will be without sharpshooter Joe Harris for tonight’s game and four-to-eight weeks beyond that as he undergoes an ankle procedure, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The loss of Harris coupled with the demotion of Blake Griffin out of the rotation makes the Nets roster even more top-heavy, but clearly, their top is one of the best in basketball. The Knicks will for sure be in for a challenge this evening, particularly on the defensive end of the floor, as Brooklyn ranks in the top 10 in the NBA in points per game, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and free throw percentage, per NBA Stats.
With Kemba Walker officially out of the rotation for now and rumblings that he could be dealt, the Knicks’ guard situation is going to look a whole lot different going forward. Alec Burks will now assume the starting point-guard duties with Immanuel Quickley and Derrick Rose serving as backups. Rose is questionable to return this evening with an ankle injury.
In the Knicks’ last game against the Atlanta Hawks, Alec Burks shined and led the team with 23 points. With Walker and Rose both out of that game, Burks stepped up and helped the Knicks gain a much-needed victory and has earned his spot in the starting lineup, outperforming Walker by a wide margin thus far this season.
Great defense on Trae by IQ and then Julius finds BIG MONEY AB FOR THREE pic.twitter.com/TGGTzZ2sKA
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) November 28, 2021
Keep an eye on how Burks performs this evening against a surprisingly stout Brooklyn defense that ranks in the ninth in points allowed, second in opponent field goal percentage, and first in opponent three-point percentage, per NBA Stats.
This lineup change is also significant, not only for the fact that hometown New Yorker Kemba Walker is getting benched but more so in terms of Tom Thibodeau finally making changes, instead of running out the same guys so often and expecting different results. Thibs is known for being resistant to change and giving a longer leash to his “guys” than most, so could this change foreshadow more moves to come? With RJ Barrett and Evan Fournier struggling, keep an eye out if we start to see more IQ and Obi Toppin tonight and going forward.
With Mitchell Robinson active and Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson hobbling and questionable to go tonight, the Knicks’ center rotation is thin. Luckily for the Knicks, the Nets do not really have anyone scary who can dominate the paint. With Blake Griffin out of the rotation, Nicolas Claxton out with an illness, the Nets are forced to rely on old LaMarcus Aldridge and old and undersized Paul Millsap. Both Aldridge and Millsap were great players back in their primes, but no longer match up with the athletic Mitchell Robinson and Jericho Sims.
RJ Barrett is questionable for Tuesday's game with a non-Covid illness. Also questionable are Derrick Rose, Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson.
— Barbara Barker (@meanbarb) November 29, 2021
If the jump shots are not falling this evening early on, look for the Knicks to make a concerted effort to get Robinson involved, as he has a distinct advantage over whoever the Nets throw at him.
Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. EST from Brooklyn, broadcast on TNT.