By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Nets | Madison Square Garden
When: Wednesday | 7:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (32-43): The Knicks return home from a five-game road trip to face the crosstown Nets tonight at the Garden. They went 3-2 out west and now trail the Hawks by one game in the standings for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Carmelo Anthony carried a heavy load on the trip, scoring 27.8 points per game and shooting over 40 percent from deep as New York defeated Sacramento, Golden State and Utah.
Brooklyn (40-33): The Nets have dealt with injuries all season, but enter tonight playing some of the best basketball in the league. With a record of 16-6 since the All-Star break, they've clinched a playoff spot and are only 1.5 games out of the 3rd seed. Despite playing without Brook Lopez (out for the season after foot surgery) and Kevin Garnett (out indefinitely with back issues), first-year coach Jason Kidd's team has found its groove. They are coming off a win last night against Houston, in which six players scored in double figures despite the absence of Andrei Kirilenko (ankle) and Marcus Thornton (back).
The Numbers Game
With Monday's win in Utah, the Knicks improved their record to 7-10 on the second night of back-to-back sets.
Matchup to Watch
Tyson Chandler vs. Mason Plumlee
Taken two picks before Tim Hardaway Jr. in the draft, Plumlee has stepped into the void left by Kevin Garnett's injuries and performed like a seasoned vet. The former Duke Blue Devil isn't a traditional back-to-the-basket center, but that fits what the Nets want to do; even with Garnett healthy, they decided to go with a more nimble starting alignment post-Lopez injury that favors length and versatility over height. Chandler will have his hands full with Plumlee's athleticism, but should have an edge with his experience and shot-blocking instincts.
What to Look For
Amar'e Stoudemire is slated to return to the lineup tonight after sitting out Monday's game in Utah to rest his knees for the stretch run. With STAT playing, coach Mike Woodson will have to decide how he matches up with the Nets' "small" lineup -- "small" being a little misleading because while Paul Pierce is expected to start at power forward, Brooklyn features imposing size at positions 1-3...Hardaway is listed as doubtful for tonight after spraining an ankle late in the Jazz game. X-Rays came back negative...Both teams have strong depth off the bench, which should make for some intruiging rotations. Big man Andray Blatche should see some time against Cole Aldrich and/or Jeremy Tyler, both of whom has provided solid minutes as the season has worn on.