By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Nets – Madison Square Garden
When: Monday | 3:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG Networks
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York: The Knicks return from London riding back to back wins after a challenging 3-game stretch against some of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. After handling the Hornets at home, they used a hot-shooting start to put away the Pistons across the pond. After dealing with a variety of injuries, the team is starting to get healthy with the return of Iman Shumpert and the continued progress of Amar'e Stoudemire, who scored 17 points and got to the free throw line 12 times in 20 minutes against Detroit. Monday marks the first of three divisional games -- next they'll head to Boston (Thursday) and then Philadelphia (Saturday).
Brooklyn: After an up and down start to the season, the Nets have surged back into the race for the Atlantic Division since P.J. Carlesimo took over for Avery Johnson as coach. They've won 10 of their last 12 and enter Monday playing much better basketball than they were when they last saw the Knicks a month ago. They present challenges in the frontcourt; potential All-Star Brook Lopez leads the team in player effiiency rating (PER) and center Andray Blatche, who is right behind him, has sustained a high level of play off the bench. Their decorated backcourt of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson has also turned things around after a slow start.
Last Time Out
New York: The Knicks had their best 1st quarter in a while in a 102-87 win over the Pistons in London. They drained five threes and jumped out to a 29-17 lead from which they never looked back.
Brooklyn: After a loss in Atlanta ended a 7-game win streak, the Nets won the home end of a home-and-home, 94-89.
The Numbers Game
The Nets love to grind it out; they are 29th in the league in pace, using just 90.8 possessions per 48 minutes.
Match-up to Watch
Carmelo Anthony vs. Kris Humphries
When Anthony is on the floor as the power forward, the Knicks have outscored their opponent by 177 points. With the return of Shumpert and the emergence of Chris Copeland, coach Mike Woodson now has options on the wing to allow his star to play where he's most effective. He gives up some bulk against the physical Humphries, but his athleticism should allow him to get his shot off or blow by the slower-footed defender.
What to Look For
The Nets are in the top 10 in the NBA in rebound rate. They are also particularly dangerous on the offensive glass, where they rank fourth in the league, so limiting extra possessions will be crucial. Reggie Evans, who gobbles up nearly a quarter of all rebounds while he is on the floor, could be matched up with Stoudemire but merits special attention from the entire team... Speaking of Stoudemire, he has been limited to about 20 minutes a game, but could see his minutes begin to increase soon. Shumpert was capped at 15 in his debut and will be monitored closesly as he works back into game shape.