Harris DeckerSix months ago, if you would have looked at the NBA schedule, you’d see a game at the beginning of April that could help decide the winner of the Atlantic Division. You’d imagine a game played with playoff intensity, with Paul Pierce and Carmelo Anthony leading their respective clubs into battle at Madison Square Garden.
Two months ago, if you were glancing ahead, you would see a Wednesday night game featuring two teams heading in drastically different directions. The Knicks were on the way down, contending as one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference while the Nets were playing their best basketball of the season.
The night is finally here and instead of a matchup between two teams that heading in opposite directions, we have a game that could help to determine if the Knicks are able to complete an improbable playoff run, sparked when Phil Jackson became the team’s president.
It’s hard to believe how the tone for this game has changed since the start of the season. Instead of the Knicks and Nets sitting atop the Atlantic, the Toronto Raptors have that spot firmly in their grasp.
Previewing this game is easy. These teams don’t like each other and beyond the teams, the players don’t seem to care for each other either. Even with Kevin Garnett out, you should expect a very hard-fought game from both sides. After all, what would be better for the Nets than helping to land the knockout blow to the Knicks on their way to the playoffs?
In order for the Knicks to win, they have to do a few things really well. First, they need to contain the guards for Brooklyn. Joe Johnson is back to his superstar ways, and paired with Deron Williams, they makeup an incredible backcourt. It’s also easy to forget about Marcus Thornton and Shaun Livingston, who have been keys for the Nets in the second half.
If Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith are able to play the type of defense they showed off against the Warriors and Jazz, then they could come out on top.
Tim Hardaway Jr. is a big question mark heading into this game. It is unknown if he will play and is currently listed as questionable, although it seems unlikely given his condition after Mondays win. Hardaway Jr. is the third leading scorer after Anthony and Smith, and his loss would be a big blow for the Knicks.
There will be plenty of scoreboard watching tonight at the Garden. The Hawks are facing off against the Chicago Bulls, and after tonight, with a loss and a Knicks win, could find themselves tied for the eighth and final playoff see in the Eastern Conference.