The Nets have a pretty impressive injured list, starting with Kevin Durant who, obviously, was never going to play this season. But there’s now Kyrie Irving, who will be out at least three more games with a shoulder injury, and Caris Levert, who will be out four-to-six weeks after thumb surgery. That’s three players who combined to average 63.5 points per game in 2018-19.
Despite that, the fully healthy though somewhat dysfunctional Knicks find themselves underdogs on their home floor against the Nets. Such an affront!
This is what happens, though, when you’re 30th in the NBA in offensive efficiency (103.2 points per 100 possessions) and 19th in defensive efficiency (110.2). It’s hard to take you all that seriously.
But the Knicks have not played all that poorly in recent weeks. They’re 2-3 in their last five games and managed to rally from a 20-point fourth-quarter deficit in their last time out, against the Spurs, to cut the lead to eight. It’s a small victory but take the positives where you can here. Before that, it was wins over Dallas and Cleveland, and two tight losses to Charlotte and in Philadelphia.
Not all that bad, really. Considering the injuries the Nets are coping with, this will be a tough one.
Nets vs. Knicks Preview
The Nets are pretty simple to figure out, especially with the way the injured list has bloomed lately. If they’re making their 3-pointers, they should win. The league average on 3s is 35.5 percent. When the Nets are at or better than 35.0 percent, they’re 5-1, the lone loss coming in their tough overtime opener against Minnesota.
They’re 2-7 when they fail to hit 35.0 percent of their 3s or better and that’s happened more often than not lately. On Friday against Sacramento, the Nets won and made 35.3 percent of their 3s. Before that the team had not shot 35 percent from the arc in six games.
That means the Knicks are going to have to do their best to rough up sharpshooter Joe Harris on the perimeter and keep watch on Garrett Temple, the perennial end-of-bench signee who just winds up helping wherever he goes. Temple has played for nine teams, so he has motivation to show up his old team pretty much every time he takes the floor.
Problem is, the Knicks just have not been doing that much lately. In their last four games, New York has given up—prepare to gasp—46.2 percent from the 3-point line. Even the Spurs, dead last in 3-pointers made this season at 8.9 per game, knocked down 12 against the Knicks on 52.2 percent shooting. Cleveland, the fifth-worst 3-point team in the league at 33.1 percent, made 17-of-36 3-point attempts against the Knicks, 47.2 percent.
An early-ish Sunday game against a beat-up Nets team has the makings of a Knicks win here. But the 3-point defense has been atrocious and that’s where the Nets’ best chance of a win lie. The numbers say Brooklyn (-2.5 according to Fanduel) should shoot its way to a tight win, and top the 214.0-point O/U.
Nets vs. Knicks Pick & Prediction
PICK: Nets, -2.5.
SCORE PREDICTION: Nets 110, Knicks 107