The Nets have won just 13 games this season, but in the last five days, they’ve secured 15 percent of those victories against their crosstown rival, the Knicks.
After a 120-112 loss to Brooklyn at Barclays Center last Sunday, the Knicks could not overcome a 67-point second-half surge from the Nets as they lost 121-110 at Madison Square Garden on Thursday. New York clinched a losing (27-42) for the fourth straight year; they’re 6.5 games behind the Detroit Pistons for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. FiveThirtyEight projects New York’s postseason chances at less than 1 percent.
However, entering Thursday’s matchup, despite the outcome of last Sunday’s game, the Knicks believed they were the superior team. Despite rumblings of the team resting its veterans as playoffs hope fade, Carmelo Anthony (17 points, six rebounds, five assists) Derrick Rose (22 points), and Courtney Lee (13 points) all played over 30 minutes.
Even without Kristaps Porzingis, who missed Thursday’s game due to a thigh contusion, the Knicks felt they could beat the Nets. Brooklyn entered the game without beating any team on multiple occasions this season.
“It doesn’t sit well,” said Kyle O’Quinn, who contributed 23 points, eight rebounds, and three assists off the bench. “A team like that, you look at the roster, they shouldn’t be in the gym with us, I feel. But they played hard and anybody can win. It’s March. Anybody can win in March.”
Anybody but the Knicks, it seems.
New York has won just two their last eight games; they haven’t won back-to-back games since defeating the Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic on December 20 and December 22, 2016. The Nets haven’t won back-to-back games all year but that hasn’t stopped them from two upset wins against the Knicks.
In his return to MSG and first time as a visitor with the Nets, Jeremy Lin’s 15 points and eight assists provided a crucial spark for his team after they entered halftime trailing 61-54.
“We were trying to play with more force, pace, and energy,” Lin said. “We were flat in the first half. They were hitting some shots in the third but we were playing faster. That warmed us up. It allowed us to play with more pace and rhythm.”
Brooklyn was helped by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (20 points, 10 rebounds) and Brook Lopez (24 points, six rebounds) as the team struggled with outside shooting. On Sunday, the Nets snapped a 16-game home losing streak largely thanks to their incredible 50 percent (19-for-38) shooting from beyond the arc. On Thursday, they made just 32 percent (10-for-31) of their three-point shots.
“I didn’t like the way we played in Brooklyn. I thought they played hard and tried to put pressure…we weren’t good at it. Maybe that’s my fault?” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said about his team dropping two straight to the Nets. “I was trying to get them to put pressure and establish that. We want to see if our guys can put that on the whole game.”
Rose called the Knicks a “super team” in the offseason, but New york has looked like anything but a top-tier NBA team.
Now, the team braces for another season with a postseason berth, something that Anthony referred to as a “tough situation.”
“I don’t know the word…it’s a feeling that I’m pretty sure everyone has,” Anthony said about the Knicks’ loss. “Not to take anything away from Brooklyn, they played and extremely well both games. It is something that has been continuous throughout the course of the season. Not putting together a game has been our storyline all year.”
After leaving Tuesday’s win against the Indiana Pacers with a thigh contusion, Porzingis sat out Thursday’s matchup. Hornacek indicated that the second-year Latvian should be ready to play on Monday in Los Angeles against the Clippers.
He limped into the Knicks locker room and slouched in the seat at his locker and said he hasn’t given thought to shutting down despite the Knicks long playoff odds.
“If I’m healthy, I want to be out there,” Porzingis said. “I want to finish the season, [this injury] is just for one game. Nothing serious.”
Porzingis, 21, missed the Knicks’ last seven games during the 2015-16 season due to a right shoulder strain.
A funny moment occurred on the Nets bench when head coach Kenny Atkinson asked for a cup of water. When pointing to someone to bring him the water, reserve Quincy Acy thought Atkinson was pointing at him to enter the game.
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) March 17, 2017
Acy quickly realized he wasn’t being called into the game and took his seat. The former Knick did enter the game later on and contributed 17 solid minutes.
[Featured Image by Frank Franklin II/AP Images]