The Knicks are trying to break a three-game skid against one of the most tumultuous teams in the NBA right now, the Nets … who also have Kevin Durant this time around.
In their first nationally televised game of the season, the New York Knicks (5-6) look to snap their three-game losing streak against the Brooklyn Nets (6-6). Less than a week ago, there was refreshing encouragement and a positive buzz surrounding the Knicks as they were rolling, with consecutive quality wins against the Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks, and Utah Jazz. Since their 5-3 start, however, the team has reverted to the same old Knicks; struggling with their shooting and defensive consistency.
The Nets, despite their underwhelming start, boast the third-best scoring offense in the NBA at 118.8 points per game, however, the Knicks are second in the NBA in scoring defense, per NBA Stats, so something has to give. Simply put, the Knicks will need to bring defensive intensity again tonight that Coach Tom Thibodeau has done such a good job getting his guys to buy into all year.
Turmoil In Brooklyn
With the acquisitions of superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the 2019 offseason, the Nets are more under the microscope than ever. Rookie coach Steve Nash has had a lot to deal with in his first 12 games, most of it a product of Irving going rogue and causing so many strange headlines and distractions.
Videos have surfaced of Kyrie Irving at a large birthday gathering alongside his sister, Asia.
Kyrie’s sister & dad have birthdays this week.
— Billy Reinhardt (@BillyReinhardt) January 12, 2021
Brooklyn on the court has had somewhat of a disappointing start, partially due to the absence of Kyrie and KD working himself back from a devastating Achilles injury and the fact that he missed time due to health and safety protocols. Durant will be there tonight and it is evident that he hasn’t missed a beat and looks more formidable than ever.
Despite Durant’s excellence, the Nets haven’t really figured it all out quite yet and this will be a great opportunity for the Knicks to right the ship and get back on track against a rival and a team that has endured a lot in this young season.
Keys to the Game
- Slow down Kevin Durant. Yes, I know this is something that is borderline impossible to do, but with KD being so slender and not extremely physical, it will be important for Knicks defenders to knock him around a bit and at least make him work for every bucket.
🔥 KEVIN DURANT. TAKING OVER. 🔥
— NBA (@NBA) January 13, 2021
- Contain Jarrett Allen. Allen has shown flashes of dominance over his young career and is capable of swinging the momentum of a game down low with his ferocious dunks and timely blocks. Look what he did to Rudy Gobert about a week ago. Undoubtedly, the team that gets better production from their big(s) will be the one who emerges victorious. This is a big-time challenge for Mitchell Robinson, Nerlens Noel, and Taj Gibson, who, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post, is available for tonight’s game after re-signing with the Knicks late last week.
It is no secret that R.J. Barrett has been struggling with his shooting this season, a department in which Knicks fans were looking for dramatic improvement from last year. Barrett on the year is shooting a poor 36.5% from the field and 18% from three, per ESPN Stats, and has been held under 11 points in three of the Knicks’ last four games.
Sure, you have some people on Twitter calling for him to be benched or even sent to the G League, but broken down, Barrett hasn’t even played a full 82-game slate yet and he has looked more engaged this season and has improved his rebounding and passing. Tonight will be a great opportunity to get back on track for the 20-year-old, who faces one of the weaker defensive units in the Association.
Return of Obi
Obi Toppin, after missing the last 10 games with a calf strain, is probable, per Knicks PR. It is unclear what Toppin’s minutes will look like this evening, but it is a great sign that he is back in action.
Tip-off tonight is at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.