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Brooklyn Nets vs. New York Knicks
Thursday, December 14, 2017, 7:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
TV: YES Network, NBA League Pass

The Brooklyn Nets play host to the New York Knicks with both squads seeking to capture state bragging rights. Both New York teams enter the night on a recent hot streak, having each won three of their past four games. Arguably the more intriguing question is whether the newest Nets Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas will make their debuts.

Let’s break down the match with a view to key matchups and analysis of how the Brooklyn Nets can capture the victory.

Projected Starters

Injuries (reports per Rotoworld.com)

  • Nets: D’Angelo Russell (knee, no timetable on return), Jeremy Lin (ruptured patellar tendon, out for season)
  • Knicks: Tim Hardaway Jr. suffered a stress injury to his lower-left leg,  no timetable on return, but initial projections are he’ll miss two weeks.

Knicks Up One in Season Series

The New York Knicks took the first game of the teams’ season series on their home court, 107-86. Madison Square Garden has epitomized the adage of sixth man (the crowd) being an advantage. That’s because 13 of the Knicks’ 14 wins came at MSG. The only win the Knicks have achieved on the road was in Cleveland.

Generally, this fact would offer a huge advantage to the Nets, but this is the Knicks. Tickets are much harder to come by to attend what is considered the Mecca of basketball. Although fans from both sides attend each other’s games, historically, many Knicks fans have infiltrated the Barclays Center for these New York games.

Will Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas Make Nets Debut?

Head Coach Kenny Atkinson tempered expectations for the debut of Okafor and Stauskas appearing any time soon. Per Brooklyn.com, Atkinson spoke to the media stating the team will take its time integrating the two into the lineup.

“I can’t give you an exact date. I just know we’re going to keep working with them and keep integrating them, obviously get them integrated as soon as possible. We have another practice day coming up, so that will be good. I wish we had four days where we could do a mini training camp, but it’s just not the case. As a staff we’re going to work hard to get those guys up to speed and ready.”

Given this statement, it’s difficult to ascertain when the two new Nets will make their debut. That said, if Atkinson is on the fence, the Knicks’ front-court versatility may warrant a peek at Okafor. Moreover, it’s likely Brooklyn will want the players’ debuts to occur on home court since the fanbase welcome will help to spur on some extra adrenaline.

Roster Structures Offer Intriguing Battles

A quick review of the roster construction showcases where each team has holes. The Nets are short of point guards and ball-handlers, although Caris LeVert has filled in admirably. In the last four games, LeVert is averaging 16.5 points and 7.3 assists while shooting 41.6 from the perimeter. LeVert will face rookie Frank Ntilikina, who has also been hot in his past four outings, producing his most consistent run to date. During this period, Ntilikina is averaging 9.8 points, 3.8 assists, three rebounds and is 6-of-9 from deep (over 66 percent).

The Knicks, meanwhile, are heavy at the shooting guard position, but there is a huge hole at the forward position; particularly the power forward reserve role. Although Doug McDermott and Michael Beasley can both slide up a spot, their natural position is shooting guard or small forward. In the victory over the Wizards, although Porzingis was the star of the night (37 points and 11 rebounds), it was Beasley who got the game ball. In short order, Beasley scored or assisted on plays, which helped build a six-point lead, and the Lakers never recovered.

Locking Down a Unicorn

Despite Beasley’s overtime prowess, the Nets’ game plan will definitely need to center on limiting the unicorn, Kristaps Porzingis. Since returning from an ankle sprain (which surprisingly only kept the unicorn out two games), the power forward is averaging 27 points and seven rebounds while shooting over 39 percent from deep.

Three Keys

Control the offensive glass: One area the Knicks excel in is rebounding, particularly on the offensive glass (rank seventh). Brooklyn needs to be cognizant of boxing out to prevent Kanter, Porzingis and the other Knicks’ bigs from gaining second-chance scoring opportunities.

Push the pace: Brooklyn boasts the second fastest pace in the association (104.36), whereas the Knicks run the 19th ranked pace (98.86). Clearly, the objective should be to control pace and keep the Knicks’ 15th-ranked defense busy trying to keep up with the well-conditioned Nets.

Fire away from deep: Although the Nets’ perimeter efficiency could use a shot in the arm, they might be tempted to take a little extra time tonight from deep. That’s because the Nets, who get up 34.1 attempts per game (second in NBA), will face a team ranked 26th in perimeter defense. Expect Atkinson to send out the missive — fire away from deep!

Odds

Both squads enter the night having won three of their past four games and will have a vested interest in beating one another to hold the New York supremacy title (at least until they meet again) on January 15.

Oddsmakers predict the Nets win by 1.5 points and estimate the over/under at 212.5 points. Notably, in the last nine head-to-head meetings, the teams have gone OVER seven times.

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