Photo Credit: AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

The Knicks and the Nets are on opposite sides of the spectrum

Last night, the battle of New York waged between the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets. Currently, both teams are on the opposite side of the spectrum. In January, the Knicks only have one win to their name and have lost 16 of their last 17 games. Many teams aren’t able to pull off the optimal tanking performances the Knicks have pulled off as of late. Unlike the Knicks, the Nets have been balling.

In New York, the Knicks have always sat on the throne, but the Nets have shown that they’re ready to usurp the Knicks to become king. At the moment, the Nets are on a six-game winning streak and sit sixth in the playoff standings. With the fortunes of both New York teams going in opposite directions, there’s no surprise that the team with the good vibes flowing won the game.

Knicks started strong then faded late in the first half

Led by Theo Pinson‘s 19 points off the bench, the Nets delivered a 109-99 win over the Knicks at the Barclay’s Center. Early in the game, the Knicks got off to a hot start due to the exquisite play of Noah Vonleh. He scored 14 of the Knicks 37 points in the quarter. Going into the second quarter, the Knicks held a 37-30 lead.

A common theme for the Knicks this season has been the inability to hold leads. Sure enough like clockwork, the Knicks blew their advantage. Led by the tandem play of Pinson and Shabazz Napier, the Nets erased the Knicks lead in the second quarter. With 6:38 to go, Trey Burke made a layup to give the Knicks a 53-43 lead. Pinson and Napier responded with back-to-back threes to quickly cut the Knicks’ lead to four. Both players continued to make buckets, and then Joe Harris completed the Nets 13-2 run with a layup to put the Knicks down by one. The first half ended with both teams tied at 60.

Nets blew the game open in the fourth quarter

Another common theme for the Knicks this season has been their disastrous second-half play. Again, like clockwork, the Knicks faltered in the second-half. The Nets were able to build a slight 5-point advantage in the third quarter. Once the fourth quarter rolled around, the Nets blew the game open.

D’Angelo Russell struggled all game, but he was instrumental in the Nets 14-4 run to start the fourth quarter. Ed Davis began the quarter eating like Ezekiel Elliott. He dominated the paint and scored the first five points for the Nets. Later, Russell added fuel to the Nets fire by draining two threes to push the Nets lead to fifteen, 101-86. From then on, the Knicks weren’t able to muster a fight to get back into the game.

Nets dominated the boards

The key to the Nets win was rebounding. The Knicks struggled on the boards like children trying to grab rebounds over grown men. Led by Davis’ 16 grown-man rebounds, the Nets outrebounded the Knicks 78-46. David Fizdale elected to go with a small lineup for the majority of the game. As a result, the Nets mauled the Knicks on the glass.

Nets and Knicks stats

Overall, Davis had a great game. He scored 17 points to go with his monster rebounding performance. Napier also played a huge role in the Nets win. He finished with 18 points. Throughout the game, the Nets starters struggled, but the bench picked up the slack. Pinson, Davis, and Napier combined to score 54 points, and as a unit, the Nets bench scored 72 points.

Burke led all Knicks scorers with 25 points despite not seeing game action for two weeks. To start the game, Fizdale elected to go with Frank Ntilikina, who played well in the first quarter. Unfortunately, Ntilikina was unable to take advantage of his opportunity due to foul trouble. It’ll be interesting to see if Fizdale elects to stay with Ntilikina as the starting point guard, while Emmanuel Mudiay recovers from a shoulder strain, or if Fizdale will give Burke a chance to shine as a starter.

In addition to Burke’s stellar play, Vonleh also contributed scoring a career-high 22 points. He was also the Knicks only competent rebounder, grabbing 13 boards to complete his double-double. Both Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kevin Knox struggled to score buckets. Together, Hardaway Jr. and Knox combined for 17 points on 4-of-25 shooting.

David Fizdale explains why Enes Kanter isn’t getting playing time

After the game, ESPN’s Ian Begley reported on Fizdale’s reasoning on not playing Enes Kanter but playing Hardaway Jr. and Lance Thomas. This question stemmed from Kanter’s confusion as to why he’s considered an older player despite being the same age as Hardaway Jr. and younger than Thomas. Fizdale’s response was as real as it gets. If the Knicks are to play a system that’s versatile, and positionless, Kanter doesn’t fit in because he’s not a versatile big. Thomas may be 30 years old, but he is capable of guarding multiple positions.

Also, Hardaway Jr. has two more years on his contract worth around $36 million. Steve Mills committed Hardaway Jr. to the long-term future of the Knicks, and therefore, Fizdale has to include Hardaway Jr. in the overall development of the team. Fizdale has made it clear Kanter isn’t part of the Knicks future, and more than likely, Kanter won’t be a Knick once the trade deadline passes.

Lately, the “Knicks tank” has been picking up steam! The next stop on the road to Zion Williamson will be Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

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