The NBA gods have been smiling down on New York basketball since the start of the new year. Both the Brooklyn Nets (15-22) and the New York Knicks (14-22) continue their winning ways, and fortunes seem to be changing for both teams.
On Friday night, the Nets pulled out a tough victory over the Miami Heat (27-10) in double-overtime 104-95. Both the Nets and the Heat wore nickname jerseys that night, and to match that theme, I will be referring to the players by their nickname.
S Dot (Shaun Livingston) was the man of the night, playing a complete game for 51 minutes in place of the injured Deron Williams. He scored 19 points and grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds. He was all over the court, and had huge blocks on defense which contributed to the Nets win.
The Heat only scored six points in both overtime periods, the fewest ever in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55) in a game that went at least two overtimes. King James (Lebron James) fouled out with about 30 seconds to go in the first overtime, the first time that has happened since 2008. The Heat only managed to score two points in the second overtime without him.
The Nets were up by two at the moment of King James’ ejection, but Cole Train (Norris Cole) was able to push the ball up the court and hit a jumper with 3.3 seconds left in overtime.
In the second overtime, the Nets pulled away. S Dot and JJ (Joe Johnson) hit the first two baskets to give the Nets a four-point lead. On the next possession, S Dot blocked Cole Train, then Truth (Paul Pierce) hit a three to give the Nets a seven-point lead and full control of the game.
The defending champions leave New York City losing at the Garden on Thursday, and at the Barclays Center on Friday. Nets increase their winning streak to five-games.
Key Stats: Joe Johnson led the Nets with 32 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds. Paul Pierce had 23 points and 5 rebounds. Shaun Livingston had a double-double, 19 points and 11 rebounds. Kevin Garnett (Big Ticket) had a double-double, 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Lebron James led the Heat with 36 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. Norris Cole had 18 points and 7 assists. Rashard Lewis (Sweet Lew) had 12 points. Chris Bosh (CB) had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Key Notes: Mario Chalmers didn’t play due to an achilles injury. Dwayne Wade was rested and didn’t play. Shane Battier didn’t play due to injury. Deron Williams continues to recover from an sprained left ankle.
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Nets’ five-game winning streak came to a stop Saturday night, as they lost to the Toronto Raptors (18-17) on the road 96-80.
To start the 3rd, the Nets went on a 18-3 run to take a 60-50 lead nearly halfway through the quarter. Coming off of a tough double-overtime game against the Heat, it seemed like fatigue hit the Nets late and they missed their next five shots. The Raptors took advantage of the Nets’ shooting impotence, and responded with a 18-4 run to take a 68-64 lead at the end of the 3rd.
The struggles continued in the 4th as the Nets missed their first six shots from the field. Their first basket in the quarter came from a Paul Pierce free throw with 8:10 to go. Raptors were able to open up a 13-point lead, 78-65, following back-to-back layups by Amir Johnson and Patrick Patterson. The Nets then responded with six straight points, but the Raptors pushed their lead back to double-digits after a Kyle Lowry three and two consecutive Patterson jumpers. At that point, the Raptors lead 85-71 with 3:46 left on the clock. The Raptors went on to win comfortably.
Despite the loss, the mood was still good in the Nets’ locker room and they are playing with much more confidence. Shaun Livingston remained cautious of excessive enthusiasm as he spoke to reporters.
“Don’t relax,” he said. “I think that’s the main thing. We won five games but we still haven’t done anything.”
Key Stats: Paul Pierce led the Nets with 15 points. Alan Anderson had 13 points and 5 rebounds. Joe Johnson had 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists.
DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 26 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. Terrence Ross had 14 points and 5 rebounds. Kyle Lowry had 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. Patrick Patterson had a double-double off the bench with 14 points and 12 rebounds. John Salmons also contributed with 13 points off the bench.
Key Notes: Kevin Garnett was rested and didn’t play, Mason Plumlee started in his place. Tyler Hansbrough missed his fifth consecutive game with a left ankle injury.
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On Saturday night, the Knicks kept it rolling as they defeated the Philadelphia 76ers (12-25) in Philly 102-92. This win marked the Knicks fourth in a row, and overall the Knicks have won five of their last six games.
Amar’e Stoudemire seemed to turn back the hands of time with his performance. He led the Knicks with 21 points and 5 rebounds off the bench, and he had a lot of pep in his step. Stoudemire had a few flashbacks to his days in a Phoenix Suns uniform as he threw it down often throughout the game.
After the 1st quarter, the Knicks were down by 8, then turned it around in the 2nd quarter. The Knicks ended the 2nd quarter on a 25-6 run, and they took a 52-40 lead going into halftime. The main catalyst of that run in the quarter came from an unlikely source, J.R. Smith.
Smith was watching the Knicks defeat the Heat on Thursday night, 102-92. Woodson decided to bench him due to his erratic behavior. He was recently fined $50,000 by the NBA for repeated unsportsmanlike conduct (untying opposing players’ laces before the 2nd free throw is taken), and his poor play warranted him to be benched at least a game.
The message seemed to get through to Smith, and when Woodson put him in the game, he helped change the game for the Knicks. He displayed positive energy while on the court, and contributed 11 points and 4 assists. The Knicks were a +20 with him on the floor in the quarter.
The Knicks held their largest lead in the 4th quarter. Smith fed Kenyon Martin for a dunk to start the quarter, that basket increased the Knicks lead to 18, 86-68. Spencer Hawes was able to cut the lead to single-digits. The 76ers were down by 8, 96-88, with 1:15 to go. On the next possession, Smith hit a 3-pointer from the wing to seal the game for the Knicks.
Key Stats: Amar’e Stoudemire led the Knicks with 21 points and 5 rebounds off the bench. Carmelo Anthony had 18 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists. Andrea Bargnani had 10 points. J.R. Smith contributed with 14 points and 6 assists off the bench.
Spencer Hawes led the 76ers with 17 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds. James Anderson had 17 points and 7 rebounds. Thaddeus Young had 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 steals. Evan Turner had 12 points and 5 rebounds. Michael Carter-Williams had 11 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. Tony Wroten contributed with 11 points and 4 assists off the bench.
Key Notes: Lavoy Allen didn’t play in his second consecutive game with a right calf injury. Arnett Moultrie is out due to a left ankle injury. Tyson Chandler missed his third game due to an upper respiratory infection. Beno Udrih missed the game due to a leg injury. Pablo Prigioni traveled with the team, and is still recovering from a broken toe. Metta World Peace is still out due to a knee injury.
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