The Brooklyn Nets bounced back from a difficult defeat to win a close battle against the New York Knicks. The Atlantic Division rivalry did not disappoint, with the outcome of the game in question until the final buzzer. What can we learn from this early east-coast matchup?
Nets Bounce Back to Outlast Knicks
Both teams have recently made changes to their rotation that should have a significant impact on each team moving forward. For Brooklyn, the change comes in the frontcourt. Six-time All-Star Blake Griffin hasn’t played in a game since the Nets took on the Cleveland Cavaliers on November 22nd. Griffin went from the starting lineup to the end of the bench in favor of fellow veteran LaMarcus Aldridge. The move has proven to be a good one so far. Aldridge is third on the team in points per game (13.8) and currently leads the nets in field goal percentage. Griffin had been struggling in the starting lineup, averaging only 5.5 points per game and shooting a paltry 31.9% from the field. To his credit, Griffin has taken the benching in stride, suggesting with his behavior that he trusts coach Steve Nash and the staff to make the best decision for the team.
Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau shocked many on Monday when he announced that Kemba Walker would be removed from the starting lineup and the rotation altogether. Alec Burks played well in Walker’s absence in Saturday’s win against the Atlanta Hawks, scoring 23 points. Walker, a four-time All-Star, is averaging career lows in all major categories this season. The Knicks clearly needed to make a change to their starting lineup, which has been overwhelmingly outplayed so far. With the tight rotation working against Atlanta, coach Thibodeau is going to stick with it for the time being.
Knicks vs. Nets Recap
James Harden started this game off on an absolute tear. Harden put on a show early on, scoring 28 points in the first half as he quickly made up for his struggles in Brooklyn’s previous outing. Harden would cool off considerably in the second half, but Kevin Durant was there to carry the load. Durant had 27 points, five rebounds, and nine assists, while Harden finished the game with 34 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists. The Nets offense ran through Durant down the stretch and he delivered, scoring 11 points in the final six minutes.
New York saw quick dividends from coach Thibodeau’s lineup change. Burks made his coach look like a genius, improving on his performance against Atlanta to the tune of a season-high 25 points. Julius Randle just missed a triple-double with 24 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists. Despite his great play, Randle was visibly frustrated by the officiating late in the fourth quarter. He was making his case to the officials long after the game’s final buzzer had sounded.
What’s Next for the Knicks and Nets
The Knicks are currently seventh in the Eastern Conference with an 11-10 record. They hope that the lineup changes will help to improve a defense that had an NBA worst 118.9 defensive rating with Walker on the court. If New York decides to keep Walker on the bench, expect him to be a buyout candidate if there are no interested trade partners at the deadline. This thin rotation could hurt the Knicks in the long run, but a playoff berth should still be well within their grasp.
Brooklyn walks away from this game with a 15-6 record, the best in the Eastern Conference. Griffin should get another chance to perform for the Nets before the postseason. The Nets’ biggest concern right now is in the backcourt. They are still missing Kyrie Irving and things haven’t gotten easier with Joe Harris out four to six weeks with ankle surgery. It’s championship or bust for this team, with or without Irving.
The Knicks take on the Chicago Bulls on December 2nd, at 7:30 pm. The Nets next play against the Minnesota Timberwolves on December 3rd, at 7:30 pm.
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