Knicks surge past Nets for 100-86 win
NEW YORK -- The third “Battle of the Boroughs” of 2012-13 was close for the first 30 minutes, but the Knicks pulled away late and came out with a 100-86 victory over the Nets at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.
Carmelo Anthony had a game-high 31 points and Tyson Chandler added a 16-point, 12-rebound double-double for New York (19-6), who won their second straight intra-city clash and the first played this season at the “World’s Most Famous Arena.” J.R. Smith also chipped in 19 off the bench for New York, who got back in the win column after having a four-game winning streak snapped by Houston two nights ago.
Joe Johnson led with 17 points, Brook Lopez had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Deron Williams added 16 and 10 assists for Brooklyn (13-12), who lost their third straight game and fell to 2-8 in the month of December after a franchise-best 11-4 start in November.
“More than anything, we just missed too many shots in the paint,” Avery Johnson said after the loss. “We were something like 16-for-36 in the paint, we shot a couple of air balls, missed a few too many easy shots in the paint, and that put us on our heels.”
Prior to the game, Johnson said the Nets’ biggest priorities were doing a better job of defending the 3-point line -- from which the Knicks shot 50 percent in their win at Barclays Center last Tuesday -- and keeping Carmelo Anthony off-balance.
They somewhat achieved the latter, holding the Knicks to just 38 percent from beyond the arc. But Anthony, playing his first game since spraining his ankle last Thursday, led all scorers on 12-of-22 shooting, including 4-of-8 from 3-point range.
“Carmelo’s playing at a real high level; he’s on another planet right now, and he’s functioning at superstar levels,” Johnson said. “We trapped Carmelo a lot early in that third quarter, but once they got Brewer out of the game and went small, they really hurt us.”
The Nets trailed by just four at the half, but as it has been all season, the third quarter did them in. Brooklyn actually held a 61-57 lead after Williams nailed a jumper with 6:54 left in the period, but the Knicks finished the frame on an 18-6 run, giving them a 75-67 lead after 36 minutes, and never looked back.
“We got off to a pretty good start in the third, but they denied us in our offense later on, got deflections, and we turned the ball over a lot,” Johnson said. “Sometimes we get in the third quarter, and the games get a little helter-skelter, and we get a little fatigued. We have to fight that.”
New York then started the fourth on a 7-1 run to stretch their lead to 14. The advantage was as high as 18, and the Knicks never led by less than 10 in the final 10 minutes en route to the convincing 14-point victory.
“A lot of times, we tried to give them some different coverages, and we had a breakdown in communication,” Johnson said. “When we executed properly we were pretty good, but when we didn’t, they made us pay.”
The Nets now have three days off to reflect on their recent struggles, as their next game isn’t until Sunday at Barclays Center against Philadelphia. Johnson thinks that the break will help a team that has played eight games in 13 days.
“I think the team is going to remain confident; this break is coming at a much needed time, and we need to get some practice in and figure out where some of our issues are,” Johnson said. “You go back and look at some of the games [we’ve lost recently] and they were very winnable games. This one got away from us…but hopefully we’ll finish off this month better than we started.”
The Nets have lost three in a row and eight of 10, and an extension of that streak would put them at .500 for the first time since they were 2-2. Given the hype surrounding this season, that may be a somewhat surprising position for the Nets to be in, but their head coach isn’t worried about that.
“The hype was deserved. There wasn’t much hype about our team two years ago, but sometimes when you get that, it comes with a greater level of responsibility, because you’re not coming in through the back door on anybody,” Johnson said. “With that greater level of pressure, we have to be able to function in those situations.”
And, they’ll have one more crack at the Knicks, as the two teams conclude the season series with a Martin Luther King Day matinee at MSG on Jan. 21.
“I’m with those guys in the locker room every day, and they feel bad…but these are the types of times that dictate what kind of team you’re going to be,” Johnson said. “It’s not going to be easy, but we’ve got a lot of season left, and we’ll get it turned around.”
Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES