Who poses the greatest threat to the Brooklyn Nets’ Championship hopes?

Brooklyn Nets

Despite coming up short once again in the playoffs last season, the Brooklyn Nets grew a lot stronger over the course of 2021. Even with all of the turnover and injury setbacks their lineup endured, the Nets found a way to play elite basketball, win games, and develop the chemistry a team needs to succeed at the highest level.

This feat was accomplished in a variety of ways, starting first and foremost with their Big 3 in Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden. Whether they play all together or not, these three superstars proved just how unprecedented their impact is with their unique and highly gifted array of skills they offer individually.

However, outside of the superstardom that comes with their Big 3, the Nets put in a lot of time and energy to assemble a core unit of role players that can provide the essential ingredients of success this teams needs to win a championship.

This summer, the Nets decided to build on that by not only capitalizing on a good draft, selecting bright rookies like Cameron Thomas and Kessler Edwards while trading for Day’Ron Sharpe. But they also signed playmaking point guard Patty Mills, acquired defensive experts in James Johnson and DeAndre’ Bembry, and over this past week alone, signed Paul Millsap, brought back LaMarcus Aldridge to a one-year deal, and traded DeAndre Jordan to the Pistons for Jahil Okafor and Sekou Doumbouya.

With just about all of the talent and depth they need, the Nets have emerged as the favorites to win the NBA Finals in 2022. But despite such, the road to get there won’t be an easy one as a handful of Eastern Conference teams look to establish their own legacy with championship glory.

Without further ado, here are the Top 3 Eastern Conference teams that pose as the greatest threat to the Nets title hopes this season:

3. Miami Heat:

As shocking as it might seem, the Miami Heat are a playoff underdog this season. Similar to that of the Nets, the Heat grew much stronger over the offseason, adding key players to bolster a lackluster offense and reinforce their Top 5 defense.

At the forefront of their new acquisitions is veteran point guard Kyle Lowry, a sharp two-way player that brings scoring versatility and playmaking creativity to a Heat guard unit that lacked both last season.

Following his final year in Toronto, where he posted 17.2 ppg, 7.3 apg, 5.4 rpg, and 1.0 spg to top it off, Lowry doesn’t bring the flashiest numbers but provides enough offensive prowess and defensive edge on the perimeter that make him a really nice fit in Miami.

In addition, the Heat added two stretch power forwards in P.J. Tucker and Markief Morris, injecting stout three-point shooting and lock-down defense into their rotation as well. With Victor Oladipo looking to make a big comeback, be it off the bench or as a starter, the Heat pose a lot of tough matchup concerns defensively for the Nets, particularly along the perimeter.

The Nets can certainly take down the Heat in six games or less, but a lot rests on their offensive efficiency to overcome the Heat’s defensive fortitude and offensive balance from the wing and inside. This Heat team is well-coached, has a plenty of veteran experience, contains depth filled with youth, athleticism, and potential, and possesses a level of grit and unselfishness to succeed at the highest level.

And following a rough playoff exit against the Bucks last season, the Heat are seeking redemption and should not be overlooked.

2. Atlanta Hawks:

At number two is the Atlanta Hawks, and for a good reason. After sealing the 5th seed in the East with a stout 41-31 record to show for, the Hawks surpassed postseason expectations with a remarkable playoff performance that eventually came to an end in the Conference Finals against the Bucks.

From their walking-highlight-reel point guard in Trae Young, to the versatile and athletic heroics of John Collins, to the rebounding and defensive proficiency from Clint Capella, the Hawks have a tough and imposing big three that comes along with a lethal offensive supporting cast.

Whether it’s Kevin Huerter, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams, DeAndre Hunter, or Cam Reddish, the Hawks are stacked with shooters and depth that can certainly contend with just about any offense in the league, including the Nets themselves.

That said, the Hawks are certainly not as defensively durable as other Eastern Conference teams, which is an advantage the Nets could certainly exploit with their very own big three.

However, the Hawks found a way to shut down the Knicks in five games, scrape by the 76ers in seven games, and just fell short to the Bucks in six. And considering how young and well-balanced their team is offensively, the Hawks are a major threat to any Eastern Conference contender as they strive to accomplish their first Finals appearance since 1961.

1. Milwaukee Bucks:

Outside of the fact that they are the defending champs, the Milwaukee Bucks have proven just how elite they can be on both sides of the ball. Spearheaded by their athletic, freak-of-nature-of-a-superstar in Giannis Antetokounmpo, both Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday played influential roles with assisting their best player in achieving the Bucks’ second championship title in 50 years.

But what tops off the greatness of this team really comes down to the role players the Bucks have that insert their dominance with passion and embrace their responsibilities for the pure sake of winning. Be it Brook Lopez, Pat Connaughton, Donte DiVincenzo, Bobby Portis, or Jeff Teague, each one of these players have become integral for the success of this team, making for the Nets toughest opponent this season.

Though Durant nearly took down the Bucks single-handedly in a seven-game series last season, the dynamic of the Nets’ offense will significantly differ come this next postseason with the consistent presence of a healthy Irving and Harden in the mix, posing new challenges for the Nets against much better defensive teams like the Bucks.

With Harden and Irving lacking the defensive grit and resilience on the perimeter, interior defenders such as Durant, Claxton, Griffin, Millsap and Aldridge will constantly need to crash on driving guards while attempting to close out on drifting forwards in and outside of the paint in the process. That’s simply not easy for any defender to manage, and this concern makes for the biggest test towards this team’s ambitions.

Though the Nets could upend the Bucks’ playoff hopes in a six or seven-game series, the defending champions have tasted what it’s like to win a ring. And with the hunger for another championship run, along with all of the talent they bring to the table as is, the Nets’ greatest foe in the East is none other than the Milwaukee Bucks.

Brooklyn Nets: Kevin Durant doesn’t dwell on ‘What If’, impressed with Bucks continuity

The NBA Playoffs’ most talked about sliding door moment never entered Kevin Durant’s mind when he watched Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy from his room in Tokyo, Japan.

Durant and his Brooklyn Nets were reduced to being a footnote of the Bucks’ title run this season.

Kyrie Irving sprained his ankle. James Harden played hurt. Durant came a couple of inches away from eliminating the Bucks. But alas, the basketball gods smiled on the Greek Freak.

“I’m not really [thinking about what could have been],” Durant said on Wednesday after Team USA practice. “You don’t play for moral victories. You only want to be the last team standing in the NBA Finals. We understand how good we are and not just go push the Bucks [to seven games].”

“Our goal is to win it. Unfortunately, we didn’t. Congrats to the Bucks, an amazing team who fought through a lot the last two years to get to this point. I have a lot of respect for them.”

The super team in Brooklyn, which was supposed to steamroll its way to the Nets’ first NBA championship, could not be healthy enough to stay together on the floor.

Meanwhile, Antetokounmpo bucked a hyperextended knee in the playoffs and capped off his dominant NBA Finals run with a 50-piece and five blocks.

Seven years ago, Antetokounmpo promised he would not leave the city without winning a championship. He followed through by signing the supermax extension. The Bucks’ front office repaid his loyalty with boom-or-bust moves, including the botched trade for Bogdan Bognadovic that cost them a second-round pick. The Jrue Holiday trade paled in comparison to the Nets’ all-in move to acquire Harden. But they beat the Nets to the draw in trading for Harden’s former Houston Rockets teammate PJ Tucker.

“It’s easy to go somewhere and go win a championship with somebody else,’’ Antetokounmpo said. “I could go — I don’t want to put anybody on the spot — but I could go to a super team and just do my part and win a championship. But this is the hard way to do it, and this is the way to do it and we f—–g did it.”

Durant was never asked to react to Antetokounmpo’s postgame remark. But he came away impressed with how the Bucks build their championship team.

“It was good to see Milwaukee forming some sort of a dynasty with that team,” Durant said. “I know it’s the first championship. I know a lot of people will call you a dynasty after a few [titles]. The continuity of that team is something that is impressive. How they continue to keep building and adding and now they’re a champion. So you can appreciate that.”

The Bucks are guaranteed to have Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Holiday, and Brook Lopez together until the 2022-23 season. Durant will have another shot at the Bucks next season, provided Brooklyn’s Big 3 will be healthy.

But in a couple of days, he will have to set aside the rivalry and join forces with Middleton and Holiday at Team USA and welcome Phoenix Suns’ rising star Devin Booker, who could still be reeling from that stinging loss, squandering a 2-0 lead, to the squad.

“We got respect for these guys. That experience doesn’t happen to just anybody. You respect those guys that went through that journey,” Durant said.

“You see a young team like Phoenix, who everybody has been counting out in the last five to six years. And now they made themselves into a contender and hopefully become a contender moving forward in the West,” he added.

Durant has been both on the opposite side of the spectrum. Before becoming a multiple NBA champion with the Warriors, Durant, like Booker, lost a young team in Oklahoma City. So he knows the feeling.

But they need Booker to recover quickly. They need Middleton and Holiday to chill down from the euphoria of winning their first championship. They have a mission in Tokyo. A goal that looked vulnerable at the onset with the missing players due to COVID-19 issues and different circumstances.

“I think there will definitely be adjustments just with the quick turnaround. But those guys know what they’re getting into themselves when they made the commitment a few weeks back,” Durant said. “They had an understanding of what this journey is and they have an extra couple of weeks added on to their postseason now. We’re looking forward to those guys coming in and we understand that it will take a while for them to take their legs back under them, calm down from all the hype of the NBA Finals but we can’t wait to incorporate them.”

Durant has already moved on from a lost NBA season. His eyes are set on a different prize.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Brooklyn Nets V Milwaukee Bucks Game 5 ticket prices down with Kyrie Irving OUT

kyrie irving, brooklyn nets

The Brooklyn Nets are preparing to take on the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 5 in Brooklyn on Tuesday evening, but star point guard Kyrie Irving will sit out with an ankle injury.

With the series tied at two apiece, Brooklyn will have to rely on  Kevin Durant to carry the load, a player who has proven his excellence over the past decade. Durant is more than capable of carrying the team in the absence of Irving and Harden, but any more injuries could stir a bit of trouble for a team that lost a two-win lead in the series over the weekend.

Reserve PGs, Mike James, and Tyler Johnson, will supplement the loss of Irving, with an expected healthy dose of Landry Shamet. Of course, losing a player like Irving, who averaged 26.9 points, 6.0 assists, and shot .506 from the field during the regular season is significant.

GET YOUR CHEAP GAME 5 TICKETS HERE!

Game 5 Ticketmaster pricing data:
  • Tickets in the 200’s level start at $80.
  • Tickets in the 100’s level start at $189.
  • Tickets in the lower level start at $256.
  • VIP Seats start at $818
  • Floor Seats start at $3,579

Non-vaccinated section ONLY AVAILABLE HERE!

The prices for the game have plummeted since the beginning of last week, dropping to below $80 for the 200 levels. To enjoy the game from the lower level, tickets start at $256, and VIP seats are under $1000.

New York Jets invade metropolitan postseason proceedings

New York Jets, Joe Douglas

The New York Jets proved to be good luck charms for fellow metropolitan professionals competing in the weekend’s postseason fare.

The New York Jets need some help in toppling a New England-based opponent, having dropped ten consecutive contests against the Patriots. Fortunately, the team was able to do conduct some offseason research over the weekend.

The respective championship quests of both the Brooklyn Nets and New York Islanders enjoyed a bit of a boost with Jets players in attendance on Saturday night. Each team is in the second round of their league’s postseason proceedings and both of them have had to deal with opponents of Massachusetts origins.

Offensive representatives once again descended upon Nassau Coliseum to watch the Islanders’ 4-1 triumph over the Boston Bruins in Game 4 of the NHL’s East Division title series, knotting the best-of-seven series at two games apiece. Much like their prior visit to Uniondale, offensive lineman Dan Feeney stole the show by celebrating Islander goals by raucously finishing off his beer.

Feeney was joined by several of his new offensive teammates, including fellow metropolitan newcomers Zach Wilson and Michael Carter. The scorers were once again clad in customized Islander jerseys bearing the names and numerals they’ll wear on the gridiron.

The players appear to be far more effective talismans for an Islanders team seeking its first Stanley Cup hoist since 1983; head coach Robert Saleh took in Game 3 of the series on Thursday night, but Boston prevailed in a 2-1 overtime decision.

An hour away in Brooklyn, Joe Douglas was on the scene for the Nets’ second-round opener against the Milwaukee Bucks. The showdown against Giannis Antetokounmpo and Co. was set up through a 4-1 series victory over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference’s quarterfinal round.

Jets/Nets fan @jaregss and his group were lucky enough to snap a photo with Douglas on their way out of the arena, with the Jets’ general manager clad in a shirt paying tribute to renowned wrestler Bret “Hitman” Hart. Many Nets fans, hungry for their first NBA title, were more than happy to welcome the Jets’ general manager to the cause.

Brooklyn dealt an appropriate blow to the Bucks in the first game of the series, as they overcame the medically-induced absence of James Harden to earn a 115-107 victory.

The Jets’ new friends both return to postseason action on Monday night. The Islanders ship back to Boston for a pivotal fifth game in the quarterfinal round (6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) while the Nets look to take a two-game lead in the Borough of Churches (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

The Brooklyn Nets enjoyed a dominant regular season, but the postseason offers a different beast

New York Knicks, Immanuel Quickley

The Brooklyn Nets have been smoking hot this year. Roaring to life this season and setting the league on fire with their explosive superstars, the Nets have flat-out dominated teams with their offensive fortitude and have not slowed down. Despite having one of the most inconsistent starting lineups throughout the season due to injuries, mid-season trades, and personal, off-court circumstances, the Nets still managed to somehow muster a stellar 48-24 record on the season, clinching second overall in the East to secure a big playoff berth.

But what remains to be so impressive about the success of this team is how it has been executed through not only their core big three but also from their various different role-players as well. To see returning superstar Kevin Durant average a deadly stat line of 26.9 ppg, with 6.7 rpg and 5.6 apg in 35 games played, from Kyrie Irving becoming only the 9th player in NBA history to achieve a ‘50/40/90’ shooting performance on the season, to Joe Harris who shot 50.5% from the field and 47.5% from 3-PT range in 69 games, to Jeff Green’s, Bruce Brown’s and Landry Shamet’s ability to do all the little things this team needs on the floor, the Nets found various ways to win throughout the entire season, using just about everyone on their roster to achieve that goal.

However, despite all the success this team has accomplished under first-year head coach Steve Nash, the biggest, lingering obstacle left for the Nets to hurdle, comes down to how they are able to translate their seasonal success into the playoffs. Playoff basketball is gritty and intense, where not only do you face some of the best teams and players in the NBA, but you face them 4-7 games straight per round, home and away. And that level of flawless basketball that teams need to produce in order to win becomes that much harder to execute on a daily basis, especially when up against strong defensive teams who know what to watch for and adjust to after playing their opponent a couple of times in a row.

Although the Nets have great experience and talent all over their team, there are three major factors they will need to surmount if they want a chance to make their first Finals appearance in 18 years. And considering the severity and magnitude of these hurdles, it seems unlikely that the Nets will be able to get past the Eastern Conference Finals and could potentially come up short in the Semifinals. Though the Nets have proven that nothing is impossible, overcoming all of these challenges in the playoffs is simply far too grand and difficult of a feat, even for a team that’s as strong as the Nets. Without further ado, here are the three major concerns the Nets face in the playoffs:

3. Lack Of Chemistry Between Big Three: Though injuries are hard to avoid, lack of chemistry is a presiding reality with the Nets big three that could prove to be very costly during the playoffs. Playing a total of eight games together during the regular season along with two playoff games under their belts so far, Durant, Irving, and James Harden have not played a whole lot together, which has hindered their ability to garner a resilient chemistry level between the three of them. This might not be so problematic for a big three-unit that has a greater role-playing presence than the Nets do. But because the Nets have three mega scorers and ball-possession-oriented superstars, the balance between the need to score and unselfish play amongst each other is vital for them to strengthen and maintain, which doesn’t seem realistic to achieve during such a small window of time. Naturally, this concern will only get better with more playing time together, particularly since starters tend to play significantly bigger minutes during the postseason as well. However, great chemistry is developed with time, and this big three has not gotten much of that. Just take a look at the Miami Heat when they assembled their big three; they played a lot more games together and still came up short in the Finals back in 2011. Same thing with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ big three prior to winning their first championship in 2016; they didn’t win their first title with their big three until a year after they all joined the same team. If none of these epic franchises could muster a title in their first seasons with their respective big threes, it’s hard to envision that being any different with the Nets this season.

2. Poor Defense: Quite frankly, this is debatably the biggest issue for the Nets. Outside of Durant, Harris, Green, Brown, and Nicholas Claxton, the Nets don’t have anyone else who really plays good perimeter or interior defense, and it showed all season. Finishing the year in 21st overall in points allowed with a hefty total of 114.1 per game, the Nets also allowed their opponents to shoot just about 46% from the field and over 35% from the 3-PT line (ESPN). Though DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin do provide decent support inside, playing behind guards like Irving and Harden is a very difficult task, considering how often both guards struggle with keeping their opponents in front of them. Achieving regular-season success with a defense as poor as this is one thing. But when it comes to the playoffs, more or less the Finals, defense is what wins games, and the Nets don’t have much to show for on that front. If they come across teams like the 76ers, the Bucks, and even the Hawks or Knicks, the Nets are going to have to figure out how they not only can outscore their opponents every night but, in the process, will have to do so against some of the best defenses and defensive players in the league. And even for a big three as good as this one, that’s a huge challenge and a lot of pressure to take on every time they step on the court.

1. Tough Eastern Conference Opponents: You would think this wouldn’t be a major concern for the Nets, considering they are the second overall seed in the Eastern Conference. But, believe it or not, the Nets have a handful of opponents that could thwart their run to the Finals. If all goes well against the Celtics, the Nets would be in line to face the winner of the Miami Heat/Milwaukee Bucks series. With Miami down 3-0, it appears that the Nets will be in line to face the Bucks, which is a very concerning matchup. Losing back-to-back games against Milwaukee towards the end of the season, the Bucks have an offense that is debatably just as good as the Nets and was number one in points per game this season (ESPN). In addition, they also have much better defensive players in guys like Giannis Antetokoumpo, Jrue Holiday, P.J. Tucker, Brook Lopez, and Khris Middleton. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. If the Nets manage to get past the Bucks, there’s a very good chance they’ll be in line to face the 76ers, a nightmare matchup for any team. Possessing the deepest, most complete and well-rounded lineup in the NBA, the 76ers simply have it all. From an MVP candidate in Joel Embiid, to a defensive player of the year candidate in Ben Simmons, to then an outstanding two-way threat in Tobias Harris, along with 3-PT snipers in Seth Curry, Danny Green, and Furkan Korkmaz, the Nets really don’t have an answer against this team. If the Knicks or the Hawks perchance make it past the 76ers, the Nets will certainly have better odds to make their first Finals appearance. But even then, both the Hawks and Knicks bring the offensive skill and defensive fortitude to overthrow the Nets, presenting Brooklyn with a difficult finish either way.

In short, there’s a lot that has to go right for the Nets to make it to the Finals this year, more or less win their first title. With a chemistry level that lacks the essence of time and a defensive scheme that desperately needs toughness and better skill both inside and out, the Nets will have a hard time surpassing deeper and stouter teams within their own conference and certainly want to avoid a long series with both the Bucks and the 76ers. If they somehow survive against the Bucks and avoid the 76ers, the Nets potentially have a shot at making a Finals appearance. However, despite all their success this season, the magnitude of these core concerns are far too large and imposing for the Nets to fix during the stretch of the postseason. And an early exit in the playoffs seems inevitable.

Knicks usher return to NBA playoffs with 15K sellout crowd

The New York Knicks are back in the NBA playoffs. And so are their fans.

A 15,000 home crowd is expected to rock the Madison Square Garden as the Knicks begin their playoff quest.

Game 1 of their first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks is scheduled on Sunday, with Game 2 on Wednesday. Both games have been sold out, the Knicks announced on Thursday.

The Knicks’ return to the playoffs is being trumpeted as the largest indoor event in New York since the pandemic. It will be the largest Knicks crowd or perhaps the whole NBA this season. Only 1,981 fans or 10 percent of The Garden’s seating capacity have been allowed to watch every Knicks home game since February.

“I hope everyone in sports and entertainment is listening because the public has spoken — they are fine with getting vaccinated and want to get back to the experiences they love,” Dolan said in the statement. “This overwhelming response by Knicks fans — almost 90% of whom are vaccinated — should silence any doubters. It’s time to start booking events and filling up our schedules, so stay tuned. We want to thank Governor Cuomo for this leap forward; he knew we could do this — not just for us, but for New York.”

Knicks president Leon Rose also took his time to thank the fans on a social media post by the team.

It’s the hottest show in town as tickets were sold out in less than an hour during its public release last Wednesday. Season ticket holders and depositors had the first access to the tickets last Tuesday.

The resounding Knicks box-office success drowns their city rival Brooklyn Nets’ struggle to fill the Barclays Center even in a limited capacity. They have yet to sell out both of their home games against the Boston Celtics despite having superstars Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden. The Nets announced on Thursday that they are offering a 50 percent discount on a number of tickets in their vaccinated section.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Battle of New York: Knicks fans troll Nets for struggling to sell tickets

new york knicks, julius randle

Who runs New York?

It appears the Knicks still own the city despite the emergence of the star-studded Brooklyn Nets as a title contender.

The Knicks remain to be the biggest draw as their tickets sold like hotcakes on Wednesday. Knicks’ Game 1 tickets sold out in less than an hour. Fans who want to watch the Knicks’ Game 1 against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday can find the cheapest tickets at Seat Geek, a secondary market, for as low as $217 and as high as $5,969 for first row seats.

Meanwhile, the Nets are struggling to sell tickets, with still a handful available at face value on Ticket Master.

Nets fans can still buy tickets for as low as $129 to as high as $529 for a lower bowl ticket at Ticket Master.

The Nets have already employed the help of one of their Big 3, James Harden, to draw fans to watch their home games in their first-round matchup against the Boston Celtics. Harden has offered a 50 percent discount on limited seats.

The Knicks fans quickly trolled the Nets with their sarcastic humor on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

The Nets have swept the Knicks this season though the last two games came down to the last possession. Unfortunately, they are on the opposite side of the Eastern Conference Playoffs bracket. Meaning, the only time they could face each other in the playoffs is at the conference finals.

A Knicks-Nets conference finals in the East could rival a Los Angeles Lakers-Clippers matchup in the West.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks: 3 keys to beating the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center

New York Knicks, Immanuel Quickley

The New York Knicks are coming off an impressive win over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday evening, demolishing them 125-81. Julius Randle alone scored more points in the first quarter than Detroit in that same timeframe. He finished the day with 29 points, as the highest scorer for Detroit landed at 16, with three players hitting double digits.

The Knicks were simply on fire, as Reggie Bullock, who played 28 minutes, connected on 8-of-12 shots from the field and 6-of-10 from downtown, logging 22 total points. RJ Barrett contributed 14, and rookie Obi Toppin earned eight, showing off another developmental step in his progression.

However, they have a significant challenge against the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night, but thankfully Brooklyn is coming off a disappointing loss to the Chicago Bulls and could be fatigued for the contest. Nonetheless, head coach Steve Nash believes that Kevin Durant could return against their crosstown rivals, which would pose a significant threat for the Knicks, despite displaying confidence after their victory over Detroit.

Three keys for the Knicks to beat the Nets:

1.) Stellar defense is a MUST for the Knicks

The Knicks currently have the top defense in the NBA, allowing just 103.9 points per game, better than Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz. The Nets, on the other hand, are allowing the 25th most points per game, with 114.3. Alternatively, they ranked second in offensive scoring, with 119 per game. For what the Nets lack on defense, they make up easily in offense, as they currently lead the NBA in field-goal percentage at 49.4%.

Ultimately, the Knicks are going to have to shut them down on defense, playing aggressive basketball, and protecting the perimeter from their elite shooters. This will not be an easy contest, especially with James Harden and Kyrie Irving expected to feature.

2.) Julius Randle must have a big game

The last time the Knicks faced off against Brooklyn, they lost by five points, and Julius Randle scored 33 points. If they want to be competitive in this matchup, they must extract the most from Randle, who played 41 minutes last time around.

Coming off a fantastic performance against Detroit, we should expect Randle to be effective, as he normally is. However, there are times where he plays inconsistent basketball and turns the ball over unnecessarily. As long as he plays clean and doesn’t try to force things, he should lead the way for the Knicks against Brooklyn.

3.) knicks must be efficient from down-town

There’s one clear distinction between the Knicks playing well and poorly, and it is their efficiency from downtown. The Knicks don’t have a single player in the top 50 in three-point shots made per game.

Coach Tom Thibodeau loves playing in the paint, especially since the roster doesn’t have any elite three-point shooters. Brooklyn is extremely efficient in that category, especially with Joe Harris and James Harden capable of launching shots from anywhere on the floor. In fact, Harris, Harden, and Kyrie Irving rank in the top 25 in three-pointers made per game. The Knicks will have to keep up one way or another, so they must defend well on the perimeter and knocked down their shots when they have open the looks.

Knicks’ Julius Randle, Reggie Bullock fire back at Nets’ ‘big 3’ challenge

new york knicks, julius randle

The New York Knicks are scheduled to take on the Brooklyn nets on Monday evening, but the challenge doesn’t scare them. Brooklyn currently sits at 34–15, good for second place in the Atlantic standings, tied with the Philadelphia 76ers.

With Kevin Durant expected to make a return this week, Brooklyn could feature James Harden, Durant, and Kyrie Irving, which would pose a significant threat to a Knicks team that is coming off a few unfortunate losses to below-average teams.

However, New York did walk away with a victory over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night, finishing 125-81. In the contest, Julius Randle scored 29 points, and Reggie Bullock finished with 22, stating after the game that they don’t fear Brooklyn and their star-caliber players.

In fact, when asked about Brooklyn’s big 3 and if they will be fazed by them, Reggie Bullock responded with a perfect quote, “we got a big 5.”

Randle quickly chimed in, saying, “we got a big 15.” It is nice to see the confidence from the stars against Detroit, who combined for 53 points and 13 total rebounds. Bullock is one of the Knicks’ only sharpshooters, hitting 6-of-10 from behind the arc on Saturday. When he’s playing at the top of his game and hitting shots, the Knicks’ offense is vastly improved basketball.

“We’re not really concerned about their Big three. We know what type of basketball we’ll be able to come into the game and play. We’ll focus on our team. The game plan that coach draws up. Other than that, that’s all we’re focued on. The Knicks.”

Ultimately, New York does host the best defense in basketball, but stopping Brooklyn will be extremely difficult considering they have won four straight and scored no fewer than 111 points.

Luckily for the Knicks, they will be coming off a game on Sunday night, so they might be a bit fatigued. The team doesn’t lose very often, especially with three players averaging over 25 points per game. The Knicks can simply play their game, hoping for a few big defensive stops, but they must hit shots late in games, which is something they have failed to do in recent days.

Anti-climactic ending in Atlantic: Knicks’ comeback falls short in Nets’ nest

New York Knicks, Immanuel Quickley

It was an enthralling match with the trappings of a high-stakes playoff game where the stranglehold of a basketball city so desperate to get back to NBA relevance hung in the balance.

It was the old power New York Knicks against the new order Brooklyn Nets in Atlantic Avenue.

In the end, a controversial call failed to give it a fitting finish as the Nets escaped with a 117-112 win on Monday night.

Perhaps this would be the start of a heated rivalry between the two resurgent New York teams.

Kyrie Irving saved the Nets from a complete meltdown with a swipe to Julius Randle’s three-point attempt to send the game into overtime. Randle went down with the ball and dribbled that earned him a traveling call.

It was an anti-climatic finish to a riveting game that had its ebb and flow.

The Nets came into the game the heavy favorites even without arguably their best player, Kevin Durant. They still had two of the best guards in the league in Irving and James Harden.

The Knicks tried to counter the Nets’ firepower by inserting the streak shooting rookie Immanuel Quickley into the starting lineup. For a while, it worked as the Knicks, behind Reggie Bullock’s red-hot shooting, led by seven early on, 18-11.

But it was just a matter of time before the Nets’ overwhelming talent took over the game. They extended a five-point lead to 17, 49-32, on a back-breaking 14-2 run at the onset of the second quarter. The Knicks’ second-unit offense suffered without Quickley. Frank Ntilikina continued to struggle, coming up empty in five attempts.

Brooklyn was led by as many as 18 and appeared cruising to an easy win, an encore of its 116-109 win at The Garden on the day the Nets completed the blockbuster Harden trade.

Harden had his first taste of the New York rivalry and quickly stamped his signature. He finished with his 10th triple-double (21 points, 15 rebounds, and 15 assists) of the season and became the first Nets player to register a triple-double with at least 15 points, 15 rebounds, and 15 assists.

“The New York fans, especially the Knicks fans, you can hear them. I don’t know how many fans we have in the building in total, but you heard a lot of Knicks fans. We understand the tradition, but I’m just happy to be part of the rivalry,” Harden said.

He would hear more of them once the arenas would welcome back fans at full capacity. But despite having only 1,600 people allowed for the game, the Knicks fans led by celebrity Spike Lee engulfed the Barclays Center, especially during the fourth quarter.

But they were silent for much part of the game when the Nets’ offense was humming.

Irving, who Blake Griffin described in his pre-game interview as a “creative scorer,” scored in a variety of ways — pull-up jumper, crossover, and stepback jumper, nasty drives, three-pointers with hand on his face.

The Knicks tried but could not contain Irving, the New Jersey native and a self-confessed Nets fan growing up. He led the Nets with 34 points on efficient 13-of-18 shooting.

The Knicks, though, did not back down from the challenge. They showed plenty of fight, and their grittiness enabled them to storm back from an 18-point third-quarter deficit and came within a three-point basket from forcing overtime.

Quickley, the rookie sensation out of Kentucky, did not disappoint in his first NBA career start. He had 21 points but fell silent in the fourth quarter.

It didn’t matter as Randle found his rhythm late, pouring in 12 points in the Knicks’ late fightback. He was furious after the traveling call and had to be restrained by his teammates, the Knicks coaching staff, and even William Wesley, the team’s executive vice president.

Randle tried to match Irving and Harden’s star power during crunch time, but his effort went down the drain with that call. Randle collected 33 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, and three steals.

Barrett ended up with 23 points, six rebounds, and four assists after a rough start to the game. Bullock and Alec Burks had 19 and 12, respectively, combining for seven of the Knicks’ 15 triples.

After surviving the Knicks’ blistering start, the Nets’ supercharged offense overwhelmed the Knicks’ defense. Brooklyn shot 70 percent in the first quarter to take a 35-30 lead after being down by seven. The Nets ended up with 58 percent, still far from Tom Thibodeau’s liking.

If the Nets were silky-smooth on offense, the Knicks lived to fight with their grittiness that earned them 27 trips at the line. They hit 24 free throws that helped them hang with the Nets.

Their defense was air-tight in the closing moments, forcing two jump balls in the final 10.8 seconds of the game.

All the Knicks wanted was a shot at winning the game. They had their chances but couldn’t capitalize. And in the end, the breaks of the game didn’t go Manhattan’s way.

On the flip side, for all the talks that the Nets are just all offense, they leaned on defense to pull out this win. Irving, despite the controversial call, took care of business and made a game-winning defensive stop.

Crew chief Scott Foster explained after the game that it was the correct call.

“The defender (Irving) was deemed to touch the ball but not cause it to be dislodged or loose. Upon that, when the player (Randle) alights, he cannot purposely drop the ball or dribble the ball or be first to touch after he dropped the ball,” Foster said.

The Brooklyn franchise collected stars to establish a new order and try to end a New York tradition.

But not so fast.

The Knicks won’t give up their grip on the city without a fight. Monday night’s game was a testament.

The close call was the Nets’ 100th win over the Knicks, who hold a slim one-win edge in their all-time head-to-head matchups. The Nets could tie it with a regular season-sweep on April 5.

Brooklyn has a firm grip of the second spot in the East with a 27-13 record, half a game behind Philadelphia, after extending their winning streak to five.

The Knicks slipped to 20-2, still good for seventh place in the East.

A Knicks-Nets playoff matchup should be a perfect treat for New York fans.

But for that to happen, the Knicks should continue to defy the odds.

They will try to close out the tough four-game road trip to start the second half with a victory in Philadephia against the Sixers, the current best team in the East.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo