Defense to be at premium as Knicks host Nets

Two defensively challenged teams square off Wednesday in the first installment this season for basketball supremacy in New York.

The Brooklyn Nets (3-4) make a quick jaunt across the East River to face the New York Knicks (2-4) in the first of four meetings between the Atlantic Division rivals.

The Knicks have allowed at least 30 points or more in 10 of the 24 quarters this season, including a season-high 36 in the fourth quarter of a 114-109 loss at home to Utah on Sunday. New York was leading at the half 54-49.

Teams are shooting 46.4 percent against the Knicks, ranking them 27th. Their 3-point defense is ranked 28th and their defensive rebounding percentage is the lowest among the 32 teams.

The Knicks are 27th in the league in defensive scoring, allowing 109.8 points a game. Their defensive rating, which is based on points allowed per 100 possessions, is last in the league.

The Nets are coming off a 119-110 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday. They are allowing 107 points per game, placing them 21st in the league. Their defensive rating is 19th in the league.

To hopefully help offset some of the Knicks defensive woes, coach Jeff Hornacek has put assistant Kurt Rambis in charge of the defense. Rambis was the interim coach during the second half of last season after Derek Fisher was fired.

“It could've been anybody,” Hornacek told the New York Post of the change. “It could've been Jerry (Sichting). It could've been Corey (Gaines). We all talk as a coaching staff about the same things. Kurt had some of these guys last year, so just thought it was better to put him in there.”

The Knicks' favored offense is the much ballyhooed triangle, which they also practice to defend. The problem is the majority of the NBA plays a pick-and-roll offense, which the Knicks are having problems defending against.

“I mean, that's the way that the game of basketball is being played these days, regardless of whether we want to admit to it or not,” Carmelo Anthony told Northjersey.com.

Anthony leads the Knicks in scoring at 22.8 points per game.

“I wouldn't say I'm frustrated,” Anthony said. “There's some things we have to get better at, some things that we have to do better. And we have to figure that part out. We have to work at it. … I wouldn't be frustrated at this point in the season because we still have some work to do.”

To compound the Nets' defensive shortcomings, coach Kenny Atkinson has been forced to play a short-handed backcourt. Atkinson said he has not decided if guard Jeremy Lin, who is out with a strained left hamstring, will travel on the upcoming road trip.

Veteran Randy Foye's return from a hamstring injury will bolster the defense, although his minutes will be limited. Foye saw 14 minutes of action Tuesday.

Backup guard Greivis Vasquez is also sidelined, forcing Atkinson to use rookie Isaiah Whitehead and combo-guard Sean Kilpatrick, who ranks second on the team in scoring and seems to have found stability with his third team in two seasons.

“I think Sean (Kilpatrick) can definitely play the point,” Atkinson told the New York Post. “He's done it. He handles pick-and-roll, but we don't want to get Sean too out of his role. “He's done a fantastic job scoring off the bench for us.”

Atkinson also said the Nets will decide Wednesday if center Brook Lopez plays at New York on the second end of a back-to-back. Lopez led the Nets with 26 points against Minnesota. He sat out the second part of a back-to-back Oct. 28 in Milwaukee.