New York’s finest: Knicks and Nets are NBA’s hottest teams

jalen brunson, knicks
Nov 30, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) reacts after a basket against the Milwaukee Bucks during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

With just days until Christmas Day, the day that most NBA fans take teams more seriously, the two teams out of New York are the hottest teams in the league and are sending serious shockwaves around the league: The New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets.

Entering Tuesday, the Knicks are riding a league-best seven-game win streak, while the Nets are currently on a six-game win streak – the second-highest win streak in the NBA behind the Knicks.

On December 3rd, the Nets were the only team based in New York to be in a playoff spot. Over two weeks later, both teams are now currently in playoff position, with the Nets being the fourth seed and the Knicks sixth.

After both teams started off with subpar play, they are now playing their best basketball all season, gaining the national audience’s attention. So what has changed for these teams?

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The Knicks have found a starting lineup that works

Thanks in large part to a significant rotation change by Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau, their newly formed big three of Jalen Brunson, RJ Barrett, and Julius Randle have been dominating teams during their winning streak.

The trio are all averaging at least 20.2 PPG, shooting at least 42% from the field, and shooting at least 33% from three-point range over their last seven games. Julius Randle is the most notable of the three, as he is back to his 2021 All-NBA form and has put himself in the running for another All-Star appearance.

The elevation of Quentin Grimes to the starting lineup has created a great balance of scoring and defense for a Knicks starting five that was looking for a spark.

The difference was so huge that the Knicks’ current starting five ranks second in the NBA with a +14 net rating, only trailing the Golden State Warriors’ starting five.

The new changes have brought a new cohesive balance to a Knicks team that is looking like a serious threat in the Eastern Conference, and they are now certainly a team that others should watch for.

The Nets became dangerous when Kyrie Irving returned

When Kyrie Irving returned to the Brooklyn Nets on November 20th after an eight-game suspension given to him by the team, the Nets were 8-9 and struggling mightily to win games.

Since his return, the Nets have gone 11-3 to jump towards the top of the Eastern Conference standings, and a lot of that success is owed to the stellar play that Irving has put on display since returning.

Irving is averaging 25.7 PPG and 4.1 APG since coming back and is also shooting 51.3% from the field and 37.7% from long distance. His superb performance has shown the nearly insurmountable strength that the combination of him and superstar Kevin Durant provide when they’re both at their best.

Since the firing of former Nets head coach Steve Nash and the hiring of Jacque Vaughn, Brooklyn is 17-7 and are improved defensively, having a defensive rating of 110.4 over that stretch compared to a ghastly 119.1 defensive rating before the head coaching change.

The Nets have returned as one of the top dogs of the NBA, and with their stars playing at their best level right now, they are now a legitimate finals threat if that success can be sustained the rest of the way.

New York is the epicenter of the NBA’s success right now

Both New York teams are clicking in every facet right now. This is one of the best times to be a fan of either of these teams, as they are both playing some of their best basketball in a long time, and the fact that they are doing it simultaneously makes for an exciting sports time in the Big Apple.

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