Rivals meet again for a classic basketball rivalry this Monday night. The Brooklyn Nets (34-16) play host to the New York Knicks (25-25) as 5½-point betting favorites. Brooklyn is coming off a loss against Chicago while New York snapped a three-game skid against Detroit.
It’s a battle of opposing styles. The Knicks have an “old school” defensive style thanks to Tom Thibodeau’s mentorship whereas Brooklyn has a high-powered modern NBA offense. I like for offense to beat defense in this sense.
New York Knicks Big Inside, Small Outside
The New York Knicks are doing it their way. After hiring Thibodeau, New York has looked like a different monster. The team is playing a possession-heavy and defense-oriented style that has led to success considering how miserable the franchise has been.
Star forward Julius Randle has carried the bulk of the offensive load. If the Knicks were a better team, he’d be in serious consideration for MVP as he’s posting 23 points, 10.7 boards, 5.8 assists with a 52.5% effective field goal.
Joining Randle are some grizzled big men in C Nerlens Noel and F/C Taj Gibson. The three have helped shape the Knicks’ fourth-ranked defense that grabs the seventh-most boards and limits opponents to just 51.1 EFG%, the second-best in the NBA.
New York has stayed steady despite inconsistent play from its backcourt. RJ Barrett has improved, but his 48.5 EFG% is still below league average. Rookie Immanuel Quickley will need to score more consistently. If it can get more from the two, it can be the fourth-best team in the East.
Brooklyn Nets: The Greatest Show on Court
Despite the “Big Three” not being able to play for 90% of the season, the Brooklyn Nets have captivated both fans and haters alike with their video game-style of offense. The Nets have been scorching teams regardless of their standing in the league.
Brooklyn has the top offense, top shooting percent, and fifth-most three-pointers in the league. Teams can’t compete in a shootout with the Nets. And this goes beyond their star players as guys like G/F Joe Harris and G Landry Shamet can light it up from deep if given a chance.
The Nets were also one of the worst defenses in the NBA, but they’ve since climbed to being 25th in rating. A lot of it is due to being unable to force teams to commit turnovers (29th in percent).
But Brooklyn has been able to limit teams’ shooting to at least the league average. They don’t get outrebounded too often and still win the turnover battle. Whatever narrative on Brooklyn’s defense, it’s likely overstated. Enjoy this team while it lasts.
The NBA betting line on the Nets is due to Harden and Durant likely not being in the lineup during this game. Both players have hamstring injuries and the Nets are being vague about their status. Brooklyn is 1-3 without Harden this season.
But despite the Nets’ myriad of injuries, they’ve stayed a profitable team on the betting lines. Brooklyn has won 20 of its 26 home games. Overall, the team is 24-13 as a favorite and is 19-7 against teams with a .500 record or better.
Irving will still suit up and he can outscore most of the Knicks’ backcourt by himself. But that’s what this game boils down to: the battle along the perimeter. New York will look to slow down the tempo and turn this into a game of possessions.
But the Nets can excel here too. Both Irving and new acquisition F/C LaMarcus Aldridge being deadly iso scorers. Wherever this game goes, Brooklyn will have the edge in scoring and that’s why they’re winning.