NEW YORK -- The East River Rivalry resumes on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, and there’s plenty on the line for both the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks. Here’s what we’ll be watching for:
SOMETHING TO PLAY FOR: The Nets (40-33), who clinched a playoff spot on Tuesday night, are just 1 1/2 games back of both third-seeded Toronto (42-32) and fourth-seeded Chicago (42-32). Brooklyn plays eight of its last nine games against sub-.500 teams. The Nets want to be healthy heading into the playoffs, so, again, it’s going to be a balancing act for coach Jason Kidd. How much do they want to play the likes of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce the rest of the regular season?
The Knicks (32-43), on the other hand, are fighting for their playoff lives. New York trails eighth-seeded Atlanta (32-41) by just one game for the final postseason spot in the Eastern Conference. Both teams will be scoreboard watching: Toronto is hosting Houston, while Chicago is in Atlanta.
WILL AK-47 RETURN? The Nets have said that Andrei Kirilenko, who has missed the last five games due to a sprained left ankle, could return in the middle of this week. Perhaps Wednesday? Kevin Garnett will miss his 18th straight game due to back spasms. It’s unknown if Marcus Thornton will return following a two-game absence due to lower back soreness.
MELODRAMA: Carmelo Anthony averaged 36.9 points and 9.9 rebounds last April, and the Knicks are going to need that type of production from him (or at least close to it) this April. Anthony has been one of the few bright spots for New York in 2013-14, averaging 28 points on 45.4 percent shooting.
A combination of Nets will draw the assignment of guarding him -- likely Paul Pierce, Alan Anderson, Shaun Livingston and perhaps Kirilenko, if he plays. Brooklyn contained Anthony pretty well the last time the two teams met shooting 8-for-19 from the field. The season series between the Nets and Knicks is tied 1-1.