The Battle for NY: Knicks vs. Nets Preview

Tonight it finally goes down. Hurricane Sandy delayed for several weeks the much-anticipated season-opener that was supposed to be the Knicks taking on the Nets at the Barclays Center. In retrospect, the delay is probably for the better. Both teams have had roughly 10 games to get familiar with personnel changes and get some chemistry down. Each has played well and sit atop the Atlantic Division, but there’s been recent streakiness in their last handful of games (both squads are 2-2 over their last 4 games). Nonetheless, even with the injuries (Deron Williams’ ankle, Stoudemire and Shumpert still out), there should be no excuses from either side come Tuesday morning. Let’s break down a few fun and key matchups for tonight.

Raymond Felton vs. Deron Williams: You could argue this is the most important matchup. Felton has all but quieted critics who said the Knicks made a mistake picking him over Jeremy Lin. While Deron Williams has struggled the last few games, you know he’ll be up for tonight’s contest. Felton will have to make Williams work hard on both ends by attacking the basket and playing tight defense. I don’t expect Williams to go off scoring-wise, but his rhythm needs to be disrupted because his passing, in particularly yesterday late in closing out the Trailblazers, will give the Knicks fits.

Tyson Chandler vs. Brook Lopez: This is not the game for Chandler to not come with it. Tyson has had a few horrid games were he was destroyed by his man like the recent one in Houston (Omar Asik) and a few weeks back against San Antonio (Tiago Splitter). Chandler needs to contain Lopez offensively: no lazy closeouts on Lopez’s jumper and no weak boxing out. Lopez has been beasting offensively in Brooklyn, scoring over 20 in three of their last four games. Tyson needs to be very smart with his fouls because should he go to the bench early, the Knicks will be in trouble down low.

Melo will be Melo, but Protect Him Woody: If anything is a sure-fire thing tonight it’s that Melo will get his on the offensive end. Last time he met the Nets he torched them for 21 points in the first quarter.

The concern is on defense, as BK has physical, big forwards that can not only push Melo around, but get in him foul trouble. Tonight is not the time for Woodson to forget he has guys like Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas to help out  with rebounding. If he does, expect Andray Blatche and Reggie Evans to have a field day on the boards.

Defense: This is what this game comes down to. If the Knicks that started the season 6-0 show up tonight, they cruise to a comfortable win. If the streaking defense of the last few games rears its ugly head, the Knicks will be clawing from behind all game and likely lose decisively.

Prediction: It will be a playoff atmosphere with the Knicks fans taking over the arena early. For how long depends on the play. I think the refs swallow their whistles much to the continued chagrin of Melo and company. I don’t see either team taking  a commanding lead and this being decided in the fourth quarter, where I feel the Knicks experience and ability to get defensive stops leads them to a tight win and a great beginning to the NY rivalry. The game starts at 7 p.m. live on TNT.

Unblemished No More: Grizzlies Frontline Wears Down Knicks 105-95

This was touted as a matchup between the teams with the two best records in the league. For the first two quarters, both teams executed plays and shot well. New York was shooting over 60% and making key steals, but still couldn’t get more than a 2-3 point lead due to giving up too much second-chance points on the offensive board. Melo was having to work extremely hard on defense, contending with Zach Randolph and Marc, Gasol who both outweighed him by 30-40 pounds. But as he’s shown over the winning streak, Melo made the right passes to guys like Kidd and Brewer for open shots. Unfortunately, Melo had to sit after getting two fouls, as did the Grizzlies’ Rudy Gay, leaving it a tight game of 29-25 in favor of Memphis after one.

Rasheed Wallace went to work in the post in the second, hopefully a sign of future things to come. That forced double teams and allowed for guys like JR Smith to get going with outside jumpers. Unfortunately for NY, Memphis’ outside shooters were hot, in particular their point guard Bayless. Matters would get chippy with him when a JR elbow and Bayless shove resulted in double technicals. The hard play continued and Melo began to complain too much about the lack of calls for him inside. The Grizzlies scrambled hard for every loose ball and even a Knicks block from Rasheed Wallace went in the Grizz’s favor, as the loose ball went to Mike Conley who hit a three to give them a 54-49 halftime lead.

Then disaster struck in the third. Melo caught a suspect third foul early and less than two minutes later got another while being tangled up with Marc Gasol. Melo got irate and earned a technical before hitting the bench. Tyson Chandler got his fourth foul and the team just became unglued. Think the playoffs last year in game 1 where the Heat got a bunch of fouls and ran the Knicks out of the building. This was very similar as the Grizzlies went on a ridiculous 19-1 run and ended up outscoring the Knicks 31-18 for the quarter. Chandler got his fifth foul, coach Woodson his own technical and next thing you know the score was 74-56 Grizzlies.

Chandler’s foul trouble forced Woodson to do something he should have done from the outset; put Kurt Thomas on Randolph. Immediately, Randolph had a much tougher time scoring and had to work harder in the paint for rebounds. Unfortunatly, the damage had been done. Although the Knicks rallied to pull as close as 8 points in the fourth, a few quick  Grizzlies scores off pick and rolls effectively iced the game to give the Knicks their first defeat.

You’d think we would have had a good shot of winning having shot 51%, but having our best players in foul trouble and Woodson being stubborn with the lineup sealed our fate. Thankfully, Woodson is already on record stating some of his substitutions hurt us down the stretch. This game is a clear example that while Melo has had success at the 4 spot, that can become a weakness against a team like the Grizzlies and we have to adjust accordingly.

Melo’s been great this year, but the one glaring flaw he needs to get in check continues to be the ref complaining. He’s going to start to get, if he hasn’t already, a reputation with the refs and the techs will start coming quicker. Our team follows his lead; when he became irate and unfocused in the third, the rest of the team followed suit. I’m sure his patience wasn’t helped matters by getting banged around by Randolph and Gasol, but he needs to check this behavior ASAP.

It’s back home on Sunday to face the Pacers. All in all, it was a good road trip going 2-1. Let’s hope we don’t see Melo trying to guard Roy Hibbert tomorrow.

Knicks-Lakers Christmas Showdown Jerseys Revealed

The NBA has released the special one-color jerseys that will be worn by all teams competing this Christmas. The Knicks-Lakers game at Staples Center, which now has new significance with the hiring of former Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni, will feature the below jerseys.

The Lakers jersey looks ok. I’m not sure about ours, though. It just seems it would be way too loud during the game. However, I’ll take it over those green Christmas jerseys we’ve been rocking the last few years. Save the green for our Atlantic Division rival Celtics. Our squad wearing green just felt wrong.

The rest of the one-color jerseys can be viewed HERE.

Iman Shumpert ft. Chrisette Michele – “Supaphly”

Iman Shumpert’s keeping busy behind the mic while finishing up the last months of his ACL rehab. Up until now, Shump’s rhymes have been solo joints and freestyles. Now he’s getting some big established names, having hooked up with the talented Chrisette Michele for “Supaphly.” So what’s the verdict? Not the worse track you’ll hear, but far from memorable. Chrisette’s voice sounds great as usual, but the production and overdone swag rap doesn’t help matters. Your thoughts?