At the beginning of the 2013-14 NBA season, the Brooklyn Nets vs. New York Knicks showdown at Madison Square Garden on Martin Luther King Jr. day sounded like a prime matchup between two of the East’s best in what was sure to be important for playoff seeding. Welp, we got part of it right. The 16-22 Nets and the 15-25 Knicks are fighting for playoff position — as in, fighting to even have a position.
Who would have guessed that BOTH teams would be struggling so mightily? These are teams with a combination of veteran role players and stars. True, there’s not much young talent or athleticism on either team, but you’d think it would be enough to get by the Charlotte Bobcats and Toronto Raptors of the world, right? Nope. The Knicks lost 108-98 in Charlotte on January 14th and the Nets lost 96-80 in Toronto on January 11th.
Fear and loathing will be on display at MSG today, with two teams that flat-out don’t like each other. The loathing part comes naturally. Each team wants to stake their claim as “New York’s team” (SPOILER: That’s the Knicks). These teams don’t like each other because of territorial issues and they don’t like each other because they’ve faced each other in plenty of hotly contested matchups, mostly when Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were with the Boston Celtics. So, let’s take a rather unkempt list of each team’s fears.
BROOKLYN NETS FEARS
- Garnett, Pierce and Jason Terry are a combined 109 years old. No need for any snarky comments there, but the point is that they can’t be counted on to play big minutes, especially in the playoffs when the minutes are much more intense.
- Overcoming adversity will continue to be a big issue, as the Nets last five losses have been by 17, 17, 14, 21 and 16. They just seem to fold when they get down.
- Without a healthy Deron Williams, they’ll have to depend on Joe Johnson in the playoffs. You know, the guy who loves jumpers and shot 25 and 25.6 percent from three in the last two playoff runs. From the field, he shot 37.3 and 41.7 percent.
NEW YORK KNICKS FEARS
- Holy crap, we were relying on Kenyon Martin and Amar’e Stoudemire as our backup bigs and in the shocker of the year, they’re both out with injury.
- SuperMelo will burn out just getting the Knicks to the playoffs and won’t have anything left. There is no real second option on this team, even when completely healthy.
- J.R. Smith‘s implosion and inconsistent attitude will continue and will infect the younger players like Tim Hardaway and Iman Shumpert.
Oh, and there’s the little unfinished business of the thrashing that occurred the last time these teams met. Remember when the Knicks beat the Nets 113-83 at Barclays Center back on December 5th? If you don’t think they have that in the back of their minds, you’re crazy. One last thought — remember Andrea Bargnani talking crap to Garnett?
So, get ready for what should be a good game between two teams that are clawing and doing everything they can to right their ships. Can either win the NBA championship? The Nets at full strength (including Brook Lopez) would have an outside shot, the Knicks need a combination of better role players and/or another scorer. Let’s just enjoy what’s sure to be a testy game between two teams that don’t like each other and leave it at that. Enjoy your holiday and don’t forget that NBA League Pass is free for the next six days!
Michael Dunlap covers Arizona sports (Suns, Diamondbacks, Coyotes, Cardinals) at Big4Sports.com. He is an NBA credentialed writer who is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief for the Sports Illustrated/Fansided NBA site HoopsHabit.com. He also covers high school sports for The Arizona Republic. Follow me on Twitter @DunlapNBA.