By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Nets | Madison Square Garden
When: Monday | 2:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (15-25): After winning five in a row, the Knicks have hit a snag, losing their last three games. While battling heavyweights such as the Pacers and Clippers, New York has struggled on defense amidst a handful of key injuries and shuffled rotations. Big men Amar'e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin are both dealing with left ankle injuries and Tyson Chandler continues to regain strength after missing 10 days due to an upper respiratory infection.
Brooklyn (16-22): The Nets have played 12 games since losing their starting center, Brook Lopez, to a right foot injury. They have gone 7-5 in that time (6-1 in 2014), and a big reason has been the play of 37-year-old Kevin Garnett. Brooklyn has decided to go small by using Garnett at center and the results have been positive on both ends of the floor. The Nets are coming off a dominating win in London over the Hawks last Thursday, in which Joe Johnson exploded for 29 points on just 15 shots.
The Numbers Game
Despite the two losses, the Knicks can draw encouragement from the play of Chandler, who averaged 12.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per game against the Pacers and Clippers. He's assumed a bigger role in the offense, showing an ability to knock down free throw line jumpers and move the ball, as evidenced by the three assists he averaged over that time.
Matchup to Watch
Iman Shumpert vs. Joe Johnson
When Shumpert gets involved, the Knicks have a good chance of winning. In their first five games of 2014, the third-year wing averaged 15.8 points and 6.2 rebounds, while shooting 58 percent from the field and 60 percent from three. New York won four of those games. Over the last five, however, Shump has managed just four points and five rebounds and his shooting percentages are in the 20s. The Knicks have gone 2-3 over that time. Joe Johnson is arguably the Nets' most consistent player and a tough matchup for anyone because of his size (6-foot-8) and deep range (39 percent from downtown).
What to Look For
After the loss to the Clippers, Coach Mike Woodson suggested that if he didn't get more production from his starters, he'd have to consider making lineup changes. That could mean more time for Carmelo Anthony at power forward, a position he played with great success last season. Such a shift could be in play today, as Brooklyn figures to start Paul Pierce at the four spot...One of the bright spots of the Clippers game, which got out of hand in the second half, was the play of J.R. Smith, who scored 24 points on 18 shots off the bench...There is a chance that Pablo Prigioni makes his return to the court this afternoon, but if he doesn't, expect Toure' Murry and Beno Udrih to continue to fight for backup point guard minutes...In the absence of Martin and Stoudemire, Jeremy Tyler earned just under 15 minutes of playing time against the Clippers and showed off some refined offensive moves, making all three shots he took on his way to six points.