When these two teams met over a month ago in Brooklyn, the New York Knicks walked into Barclays Center and exhibited all the swagger. On Martin Luther King Day, the Nets returned the favor.
The Nets jumped out to an early lead and cruised to a 103-80 win Monday afternoon at Madison Square Garden. In the process, point guard Deron Williams returned from an ankle injury to bolster a roster already firing on all cylinders. Head coach Jason Kidd opted to bring Williams off the bench to ease him back into the roster, a tactic Kidd already used with Paul Pierce earlier in the season.
Nets fans present in Manhattan showered the World’s Most Famous Arena as the seconds ticked away, issuing payback for the Knicks’ fans display in early December. With the Knicks returning to their inept ways, many may wonder about head coach Mike Woodson’s job status. Joe Johnson certainly added to the Knicks’ woes.
Johnson continued his All-Star campaign, collecting 25 points, six rebounds, and five assists. Andray Blatche and Alan Anderson added 19 and 13 points, respectively.
While the Knicks pulled to within eight points early in the second half, the Nets maintained a double-digit lead for much of the game and quickly broke open the game. With the win, the Nets surged to 17-22 and moved to 6-1 on the new year.
The Nets’ defense befuddled the Knicks, who managed just 33.8 percent from the field. Offensively, the Nets shared the ball and repeatedly acquired open shots. The display mirrored much of the same for the Nets lately.
The Nets have notched wins over several formidable opponents. In addition to two wins over the third-seeded Atlanta Hawks, the Nets added wins over the Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors. The lone loss came against the Toronto Raptors on the second night of a back to back.
While the Knicks continued to struggle, they can potentially make a run at the playoffs in a watered-down Eastern Conference. The Nets dropped the Knicks, who currently sit at 10th in the East, to 15-26. The Nets, on the other hand, took another step toward the sixth seed. Heading into the primetime games on Monday, the Nets only trail the Chicago Bulls by two games.
The schedule shifts into the Nets’ favor in the coming days as well. The Nets can continue to make up ground with three of the next four coming against conference opponents at .500 or below.
The Nets will return to Brooklyn for the first time in 11 days Tuesday night to take on the Orlando Magic (11-30)