Knicks-Nets: What to Watch For

Jeremy Lin got the best of Deron Williams last time these two teams matched up at Madison Square Garden. I expect this to be a hell of a battle tonight. Obviously Lin has been running ransack through the NBA the past two weeks. New Jersey has struggled all year but Williams is averaging 27.4 points per game in his last five games. The all-star point guard was reportedly unhappy with his performance in New York two weeks ago and he will be looking for revenge tonight. The 16-16 Knicks look to get above .500 and the Nets look to defeat their crosstown rivals. It should be fun.

Here’s what to watch for:

  • The point guards. Deron Williams verus Jeremy Lin is a primetime matchup. It’s the classic all-star versus upstart matchup. Obviously New Jersey has been horrid once again this year but they always get up to play the Knicks. Even dating back to Williams’ first start with the Nets last season, the Knicks and Nets always play tough games. Tonight will be no different. Williams will come out extra motivated to upstage the Knicks neophyte point guard and obviously Lin will be giving his usual strong efforts. When these two teams matched up earlier this year, Lin not only dominated offensively but shut down Williams defensively. Given the 46 minutes that Lin played yesterday, I have a hard time believing he will continually stifle Williams. I expect both point guards to play well in this game and I don’t expect Williams to struggle offensively again.
  • This is a big game for the Knicks. I know the Knicks are playing well. I know the Nets suck. I know a lot of fans are looking  past this game. They shouldn’t. This is a big game for the Knicks. Looking at the Knicks remaining schedule, there are only 13 “should win games” left on the schedule. “Should win games” are games the Knicks have against sub-500 teams. There are 34 games left in this NBA season and the Knicks are currently the 8th seed. The Knicks cannot afford to be blowing games, like last Friday at the Garden, against bad teams. If they are going to get up to the 3rd, 4th or 5th seed, they have to win the games they are supposed to win. Tonight is one of those games. With Atlanta and Miami coming up later in the week, a loss tonight would be devastating for the Knicks.
  • The return of Carmelo Anthony. I personally think Melo and Lin will fit great together. What Melo’s biggest problem was before Lin’s emergence was the “point forward’ role he was asked to play. The Knicks did not say “hey, we got a great point forward!” when they traded 4 starters and the statue of liberty to get Anthony last season. He is a scorer, and a pretty damn good one. Most people forget, the Knicks were 6-4 before Anthony was hampered by multiple injuries. He was balling. Given that Anthony is healthier than he was earlier in the year, I expect his play to improve. Carmelo Anthony is not stupid. He understands that New York is enticed with Linsanity right now and that if he screws it up he will be booed right out of the Garden. I think in terms of basketball, Melo is going to get plenty of touches and opportunities. I think the Knicks need to use Melo in the post more, as he is dominant posting up on the right block. I think with the emergence of JR Smith and Steve Novak, defenses can no longer double or triple team Melo. If he is posted up and defenders come down on him, he can kick it out to guys who can knock down open shots (i.e. not Bill Walker). To be completely honest, I could see Melo playing the best of his career if he is healthy. He has never played with a true distributing point guard, *cough* Chauncey Billups *cough*, like Jeremy Lin and I think Lin will find an open Melo in situations in which Toney Douglas miserably failed. I’m excited to see what happens.
  • Baron Davis is supposed to play/Iman Shumpert is OUT. Shumpert has patella tendinitis on his left knee and is day-to-day. This is not the same knee he injured in the season opener against Boston. Baron Davis is expected to make his debut. If he can give the Knicks anything, he will be far superior to Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby. If Davis is able to spell Jeremy Lin 10-12 minutes a game and give the Knicks production, that will do wonders for both Lin and the team. If Lin plays 46 minutes every game, he will deteriorate in health and production. That is a fact. If Davis can play well enough to push Lin to 34-37 minutes a game, I think the young Knicks point guard will benefit greatly. D’Antoni’s system seems to fit the skill set of both players and I am interested to see how Davis will play.
  • Brook Lopez is also out… in case anybody cares about that.

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