But by virtue of the rescheduling, this game is far more relevant to the ultimate goals of both teams than we’d have realized back on November 1, when it was originally scheduled.
The Knicks are 9-3, tops in the Atlantic Division. The Nets are one game back at 8-4. With the Celtics inconsistent so far, the Sixers forced to play without Andrew Bynum indefinitely, and the Raptors the limited squad they appeared to be, this could be the battle for the division title. Accordingly, the head-to-head matchups carry greater weight, and not just in some ephemeral, spirit-of-the-city sense.
You can expect a game with very good offensive execution, since the Knicks are tops in the league in offensive efficiency, the Nets are fifth, and neither side is in the top dozen in defensive efficiency. (Incredibly, the Knicks have been so porous defensively over the past week that their defensive rating is now 19th in the league).
But there’s no guarantee this means a score of 120-115; both teams play among the slowest paces in the league. Patient, offensive execution makes for some beautiful basketball, though. I’m pretty excited for this one, purely from an aesthetic point of view.
Here are some other interesting points I see ahead of tonight:
- Tyson Chandler has struggled with his one-on-one defense for much of the season, something I suspect stems from his late-preseason knee injury. Seeing how he handles Brook Lopez, and how much the Nets attempt to rely on Lopez tonight, will be fascinating.
- The Nets’ answer to Steve Novak, Mirza Teletovic, has barely played, let alone justified his three-year, $9 million contract. And the Nets have struggled to rotate out on three-point shooters. How much Novak, along with Jason Kidd, J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton exploit this will go a long way toward deciding this game.
- Here’s a fun stat: Deron Williams, so far, has a Player Efficiency Rating of 19.7. Raymond Felton, so far, has a Player Efficiency Rating of 19.1.
- Can Gerald Wallace defend Carmelo Anthony? If so, how much damage will Ronnie Brewer do, through back cuts and moving without the ball in general, every time the Nets are forced to put Kris Humphries on him?
- The Knicks are 26th in the league in offensive rebounding percentage. The Nets are 26th in the league in defensive rebounding percentage. Expect Knicks’ missed shots, in other words, to be treated the way Bob Uecker treated a knuckleball.
So that’s what I’m watching for: what about all of you?