Friday, March 24, 2023

NBA Preview: Brooklyn Nets (33-23) at New York Knicks (31-27)

To become a major rivalry, coaches for the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets believe meeting in a playoff series would enhance things.

For now, both sides will settle for jockeying for playoff position in the Eastern Conference as the Nets seek their 10th straight win over the Knicks on Monday night when the intracity foes meet at Madison Square Garden.

Brooklyn hasn’t lost to the Knicks since Jan. 26, 2020. Seven of those wins are by single digits and the Nets have scored at least 110 points in each win, including their 122-115 victory in Brooklyn on Jan. 28 in what turned out to be Kyrie Irving’s final big game as a Net.

Irving scored 21 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter to save the Nets from blowing a 19-point lead. He played two more games with the Nets before seeking and ultimately getting a trade to Dallas, with Kevin Durant following out the door to Phoenix.

When they had Irving and Durant, the Nets were viewed as being in the upper echelon of the East with the likes of Boston, Milwaukee and Philadelphia, but the trades may push them into the middle of the pack with the Knicks.

Brooklyn is 8-11 since putting together 12 straight wins from Dec. 7-Jan. 2, with 14 of those games being played since Durant sprained his right knee. The last two have seen mixed results from the revamped lineups.

After scoring 37 points in the fourth quarter in Thursday’s 116-105 home win over Chicago, the Nets were held to 16 points in the fourth of Saturday’s 101-98 home loss to Philadelphia. Brooklyn was outscored 16-4 over the final 7:43 and lost when Spencer Dinwiddie’s triple at the buzzer was ruled to be late.

Mikal Bridges scored 23 in his Nets debut while Cameron Johnson added 12 against the 76ers, but Dinwiddie was held to nine points on 2-of-10 shooting.

While the Nets struggled to find scoring in the fourth quarter, the Knicks scored plenty down the stretch. A night after being held to 15 in the final quarter at Philadelphia, New York scored 39 points in the final 12 minutes of its 126-120 victory over the visiting Utah Jazz on Saturday.

Jalen Brunson scored 38 points and is averaging 32.0 points in six games since the last meeting with the Nets. Julius Randle added 31 and is averaging 26.3 points in his past six contests.

New York also welcomed Josh Hart to its rotation, and he scored 11 points in 25:39 against Utah while also hitting a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 6:44 left.

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