It is official; the New York Knicks are now the less worse professional basketball team in the city of New York. After blowing out the Brooklyn Nets by 30 points, 113-83, on Thursday night, the Knicks can lay claim to as much pride as they can muster from their dubious distinction of being better than the mediocre Nets for one night. Perhaps, at the end of the season, when they miss the playoffs by fewer games than the Nets, the players will be able to look back on December 5, 2013 and know that that was the statement game that proved they were not the worst team in the Eastern Conference, but merely one of the worst.
The fact the Knicks won in their first match-up with the Nets this season was a little predictable, with Nets starters continuing to find new ways to injure themselves and miss significant portions of game time. Starting small forward Paul Pierce was the latest casualty of the Nets' injury epidemic as he broke a bone in his right hand and is expected to need at least 2-4 weeks to recover. This season, Pierce is on pace to have the worst season of his 16-year NBA career, but even so, the Nets could ill afford to lose him since the team would be forced to play even more inferior players.
Replacing Pierce in the starting line-up was Alan Anderson, who has been a below average player for his NBA career despite some shooting prowess and continued that trend during Thursday night's contest.
Understandably, with yet another injury to a starter who could also be relied upon to be a shot-creator, the Nets suffered offensively, despite the best efforts of center Brook Lopez, who poured in 24 points on 18 field goal attempts and seven free throw attempts. No other Nets player came even close to matching Lopez's efficiency and high-usage, which was a major factor in the team only managing to score 83 points and 99.4 points per 100 possessions against one of the worst defenses the NBA has to offer.
Defensively, the Nets were overwhelmed by a barrage of uncharacteristically prolific three-point shooting from the New York Knicks, who have been one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the NBA this season. Entering last night's contest, the Knicks had only made a paltry 32.2 percent (130 of 404) of the three-pointers they had taken, but on Thursday, they provided fans and casual observers with a taste of the elite three-point shooting team they had been last season by converting on 16 of 27 three-point attempts (59.3 percent).
Responsible for a large portion of the Knicks' incredibly efficient three-point shooting were Iman Shumpert (5 of 7) and Raymond Felton (3 of 5). Shumpert is actually an above-average three-point shooter, although not quite to the level he displayed against the Nets, but the real surprise was how well Felton shot from deep, especially when one considers he had only made 25.0 (12 of 48) percent of his three-point field goal attempts entering the game.
It was the Knicks' three-point shooting that allowed them to put the Nets away for good in the third quarter as the Knicks made five three-pointers in that period and outscored the Nets 34-19 to build up a 25-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
Overall, the performance of the Knicks on Thursday provides scant evidence that the team will actually improve going forward, with their 30-point blowout victory serving as a turning point in the team's fortunes. They are extremely unlikely to make 59.3 percent of their three-pointers for any sustained period of time nor can they depend on injuries to rob all their future opponents of offensive efficiency so it seems like only a matter of time before the Knicks come back down to earth after their win and resume their losing ways. Still, at least their losing ways will probably end up being less prolific than the Nets'.