Knicks, Nets attempt to turn the tide
After splitting two matchups in late October, the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets meet Saturday night at Madison Square Garden coming off vastly different results against two of the Eastern Conference’s best teams.
The Nets pulled out a 106-105 overtime win over the East-leading Toronto Raptors on Friday night, snapping an eight-game losing streak a day after the Knicks dropped a 128-100 decision at Boston.
New York managed just 39.6 percent shooting from the field in the loss as the bench went cold, connecting on just 12 of 36 shots. Worse, the Knicks’ defense was puzzled by the Celtics, who shot better than 53 percent from the field and finished with 31 assists.
“Terrible,” Knicks coach David Fizdale told reporters after the game. “Terrible defense tonight. It was Swiss cheese. No matter what coverage we put in, we just didn’t have it defensively tonight.”
The Knicks had looked to be turning a corner before the loss, the team’s second straight after going 3-3 in their previous six games.
“We have to sustain it,” Fizdale said before the loss to Boston. “I’m not sitting here celebrating it from the standpoint of we’ve arrived or we got this whole thing figured out. It’s just I felt we’re doing it the right way step by step, piece by piece.
“We can’t get to the end of this tomorrow. We got to go through everything, we got to build it the right way and not skip any steps.”
Facing the top team in the Eastern Conference on Friday, the Nets’ defense tightened up against the Raptors, holding Toronto to 39 percent shooting. Kyle Lowry, Toronto’s talented point guard, managed just three points on 1-of-8 shooting.
The Nets also absolutely dominated the boards, outrebounding the Raptors 60-41, with former Toronto first-round draft pick Ed Davis snagging 16 rebounds off the bench.
Brooklyn had shown little spirit in the previous two weeks, when they fell to 9-18 after a respectable 8-10 start.
In their last matchup, a 115-96 New York win on Oct. 29 that snapped a five-game Knicks losing streak, Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 25 points to lead seven players in double figures.
Brooklyn shot just 41 percent from the field and no player in the starting lineup scored more than D’Angelo Russell’s 13 points.
“We weren’t ready to play,” Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said at the time. “We can look for excuses, but this is game (seven). This isn’t game 74. We should have been more ready.”
Things were a lot closer the first time around, a 107-105 Brooklyn win.
Chris LeVert had 28 points in that win, including 10 of 11 free throws, to lead five Nets players in double figures.
Hardaway and Enes Kanter had 29 points each in the loss, but New York shot just 40 percent in the field.
LeVert, who has since been lost for the season, hit the winning shot over Hardaway, capping a 15-point fourth quarter.
“Kenny had a lot of confidence to go back to me tonight and I just wanted to come through,” LeVert said after the game.