The Knicks 8-15 and the Nets 8-16? Who would've thought the Knicks, with three stars, would have a nearly identical record with their cross-river rival, which features only star, Deron Williams. Unbelievably, while the Nets have only defeated one team over .500, the Sixers, the Knicks have only accomplished that twice, once against the Sixers as well and the Celtics on opening day.
On Saturday, the Knicks and Nets face each other for the first time since the preseason. The Knicks won both of those games. Here are three things to watch for tonight at the Garden:
1.) IF IT'S A TIGHT GAME, CAN THE KNICKS FINALLY FINISH STRONG?
Don't expect this contest to be too close. The Nets are basically without a starting five: MarShon Brooks, DeShawn Stevenson, Damion James, Mehmet Okur and Brook Lopez, who are all out with injuries. But if the game does come down to the last few minutes, the Knicks better make sure a current streak doesn't continue. In their past four games that were decided by five points or fewer, they lost each one: 91-88 to the Suns on Jan. 18; 119-114 to the Nuggets on Jan. 21; 105-102 to the Bulls on Feb. 2; and 91-89 to the Celtics on Feb 3.
While the Knicks have Carmelo Anthony as a clutch performer, the Nets have Williams. One other player the Knicks will have to cool off is Nets shooting guard Anthony Morrow, who's coming off a career-high 42-point performance last night against Minnesota. In his last eight games, as the Nets have gone 4-4, he's been averaging 22.3 points per game (22-for-41 from three; 53.7 percent).
2.) IMAN SHUMPERT'S THIRD TRY AT A TOP POINT GUARD
After facing Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo in back-to-back games, Shumpert will go head-to-head with Deron Williams tonight. Rose outplayed the rookie Thursday night at the Garden, scoring 32 points and dishing out 13 assists with only two turnovers. But Shumpert bounced back in a big way defensively against Rondo, limiting him to only seven points and seven assists, but with five turnovers.
There aren't too many point guards that can match up with Williams physically at 6-3, 209 pounds. But Shumpert can at his 6-5, 220-pound size. In fact, in their first meeting on Dec. 17, a preseason game at the Prudential Center, Williams had six turnovers and Shumpert caused two of them, including a swipe at the ball, which led to him having a fastbreak layup. Williams can score in a number of ways, and he arguably has the best hesitation crossover for a point guard in the league. But what really separates himself from many of the others is his ability to knock down the 3-pointer. His career percentage is 35.3.
3.) A FAMILIAR FACE RETURNS TO THE GARDEN
Leading up to training camp, small forward Shawne Williams contemplated re-signing with New York or heading to New Jersey. He chose the latter on Dec. 15, and he could've faced his former team twice during the preseason, but he sat out due to flu-like symptoms. Tonight, though, Knicks fans will get to see Williams, the type of player the team could use right now because they don't have a bench presence and they can't hit threes. Last night against the Celtics, they shot 20 percent from downtown (3-for-15).
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