The road trip is finally over and for the first time since the All-Star break the Brooklyn Nets are at home. No more late night tipoffs, no more dealing with clicking to the away feed on League Pass, and the Barclay’s Center finally gets to see Brook-Lin in action in person. The Nets ride into this matchup against the New York Knicks coming off of a relatively successful road trip that saw victories against the Sacramento Kings and Memphis Grizzlies.
The Knicks have won two of their last five but much like the Nets, are very much on the outside looking in on the playoff picture. The super team has yet to live up to the label Rose gave them in the preseason but fans have found something to watch, the growth of Willy Hernangomez and the chemistry between Hernangomez and Kristaps Porzingis. When inserted into the starting lineup on March 8th, he ended with 13 points, 12 rebounds, two steals, and one block in 28 minutes.
If Brooklyn wants to walk away with a victory they’ll need to attack Hernangomez and expose his youth, contain Porzingis on offense, and let Lin pick Rose apart on offense.
Brooklyn is not built to handle two dominant bigs on the inside. Calling Hernangomez dominant is jumping the gun, but failing to recognize his skill because of his age and level of experience is foolish. He is very talented, but the weaknesses are there. Despite stuffing the stat sheet in his first start, he ended with a career high six turnovers. If the Nets can exploit this, they stand to have an easier chance of victory.
Putting Brook on him would be fine, but if Kenny Atkinson wants to force turnovers he should think about putting Hollis-Jefferson on him. Hollis-Jefferson will struggle against Porzingis in the paint anyways, so moving him over to an inexperienced Hernangomez could be a difference maker. No matter who Brooklyn puts on either big, chances are they will struggle to defend them.
Porzingis is the NBA’s token unicorn and will be for many years to come. There is no stopping him for Brooklyn, they can really only hope to contain him. All-Star Carmelo Anthony’s presence only makes containing Porzingis that much harder because if you focus too hard on him, Melo will torch you. What Brooklyn needs to do is stick to his hip as much as possible. Play up tight, deny him the ball, and try stay in his face without fouling when he gets it.
Hollis-Jefferson is at a disadvantage guarding him straight up, but he stands the best chance of anyone on the roster to stick with him and stay on his hip. If he is going to guard Hernangomez in order to force turnovers, Brook will struggle running all over the floor with him but stands the best chance of giving him trouble in the paint. This game won’t have great defense, but stands to have excellent offense.
If Brooklyn wants to have success, they need to exploit the matchup of Lin vs Rose. Jeremy Lin is an accomplished point guard and is extremely dangerous driving the lane. Rose is an even more accomplished point guard, but has suffered well known several injuries and is not good at stopping opposing point guards from driving.
Kenny Atkinson needs to put the ball in his hands and let him go to work on Rose. Courtney Lee won’t offer much resistance either, so this needs to be a game where Lin takes over for the Nets. With his minutes restriction just about over and this being his first game back in front of the home crowd that loves him so, look for Lin to be aggressive and play a good.