Knicks And Nets Are Heading In Different Directions

Knicks & Nets
Published by NYSB Staff
Last Updated: 02. Feb 2024.

The New York Knicks are the NBA's hottest team with a six-game winning streak, including a convincing 122-84 beatdown of the reigning league champion, the Denver Nuggets. 

The Knicks have climbed into fourth place in the Eastern Conference and could become a legitimate championship contender with the addition of a big-name scorer.

OG Anunoby's Impactful Performance

Small forward OG Anunoby continued to sizzle with 26 points in only 29 minutes. The centerpiece of a blockbuster trade between the New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors on Dec. 30, Anunoby finished with six steals while limiting Denver point guard Jamal Murray to just nine points. You can explore odds on some of the top NY betting sites for specific players and teams throughout the season.

"There's a reason the crowd was chanting 'OG.' He was outstanding," said Nuggets coach Mike Malone. "They're 11-2 with him in the lineup now. He brings defense, he brings offense, he brings toughness, he brings physicality. He and the rest of the guys in the New York Knick uniforms tonight - were terrific from beginning to end. So give them a lot of credit for protecting their home court."

Anunoby's Defensive Prowess and Team Synergy

Besides his offensive production, Anunoby's defensive skills have transformed the Knicks into an elite juggernaut on the defensive end of the court.

"That's always what I wanted to do. I expect it," the British native said. "I expect to make a difference."

Jalen Brunson's All-Star Snub and Consistent Play

New York point guard Jalen Brunson chipped in 21 points and four assists despite getting snubbed by the fans in the All-Star voting. 

"Truly, I just don't care," Brunson said. "I was always looked over. I don't worry about what people say. I just gotta go out there and just continue to prove myself right, that I belong."

Brunson is averaging 26.5 points, 6.4 assists, and 3.8 rebounds per game this season. While he still may be added to the All-Star team as a reserve, the former Villanova standout was more excited about the performance of his new teammate.

"He's getting more and more comfortable," Brunson said. "He played well tonight. He was aggressive on both sides of the ball. That's the OG we got, the OG we saw playing against him. And he's doing it in a Knicks uniform."

Randle's Perspective on Regular Season Games

10-year veteran Julius Randle was happy to notch the win against one of the league's top teams but downplayed the significance of winning a regular season game.

"I ain't gonna lie to you, bro, it's regular season," Randle said. "I could care less. I just like the fact that we won first and foremost. We don't want to be on that end. We're building the right habits. But for me, it only matters in April."

Randle will miss several weeks after dislocating his right shoulder last Saturday in a 125-109 victory over the Miami Heat. The 29-year-old is averaging 24 points, 9.2 rebounds, and five assists this season.

"Our mentality is always next man up," Brunson said. "We got to stick together. We can't just have one person pick up the slack or anything."

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau downplayed the hard foul that injured Randle and reiterated that injuries are a part of the game.

"The thing is, both teams are hard playing, so there's going to be a lot of tough plays like that," Thibodeau said. "You don't want to see it. I don't want to see anyone get hurt on our team or their team. But that's part of the game. The only way you can guarantee someone not getting hurt is if you never play."

Nets' Struggles and Ben Simmons' Return 

Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum is the Brooklyn Nets. Although injury-prone point guard Ben Simmons will return from another extended absence, the Nets have won just three games in their previous ten outings. 

A season that was supposed to lay the foundation for a short-term makeover has devolved into a sputtering mess.

Challenges for the Nets: Injury and Consistency Issues

Brooklyn snapped a three-game losing skid with a narrow win Saturday over the Houston Rockets. Simmons will return after missing ten weeks due to a nerve impingement in his lower back. However, forward Dorian Finney-Smith sprained his left ankle and will not play in Monday's matchup against the Utah Jazz. 

Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn said after the game that losing Finney-Smith was a big blow to the team on both ends of the floor.

"Unfortunately, he wasn't able to finish the game, which was huge for us. It affected us in a lot of ways," Vaughn said. "I would have subbed him when they were fouling Nic , so that piece of it. Nic was tired because we had to play him for 40 minutes, so we needed . Also, and then ability to — as you saw tonight — stretch the floor, get downhill, his defense ability.

"He was able to guard Sengun. He was able to guard VanVleet. He's able to guard Jeff Green. And so, his versatility is huge for us, especially with no Day'Ron right now. So, no update besides he wasn't able to finish the game, but we missed him."

Cam Thomas on Simmons' Integration and Team Dynamics

While the Nets are ecstatic to have Simmons back on the court, everyone realizes it will take time before their 6-foot-10 playmaker is back at full speed.

"It's not easy for nobody to just come in like that and it is like a seamless transition, but he'll have good spurts," said Cam Thomas after Saturday's win. "I mean, obviously he'll have bad spurts, he hasn't played in a while. It's tough. It's tough for anybody.

"It was tough for me first coming back playing with the guys, trying to figure out where I fit in and just the rhythm of the game again. Just the rhythm of the game, flow, and the conditioning aspect of it. We can do as much conditioning as we want, the game is a different speed, it's a different transition, different reads.

"The game moves fast, so we gotta give him some games, but I'm sure if he's coming back he'll be ready to go. But we just gotta give him time. It's tough for anybody to come back and have a good transition like that, but I have my faith in him and he'll be another great addition for us."

Ben Simmons' Anticipation for a Strong Comeback

Simmons has been limited to just six outings this season and has missed 115 of 163 games since joining the franchise during the 2021-22 season. However, he is excited to be healthy and to provide a spark for the organization.

"It was great. I feel great," Simmons said about his stint with G-League Long Island. "It was good to just be on the floor and get up and down, and play and get some live situational things going for me. So, I'm excited to be back and looking forward to it."

Brooklyn has lost 12 of their previous 16 games and boasts an ugly 18-27 record. The Nets are hopeful that Simmons can inject a fast-paced element into an offense that is lacking in several areas.

"I just want to have an impact. I want to come in and win games," Simmons added. "We haven't been winning lately. So it's one of those things where we have to get back on track. I'm looking forward to just playing my role and helping this team win."

Contrasting Fortunes of Knicks and Nets in the NBA Landscape

In conclusion, the divergent paths of the Knicks and Nets this season underscore the unpredictable nature of the NBA. While the Knicks are surging with newfound synergy and standout performances, particularly from Anunoby and Brunson, the Nets face an uphill battle, grappling with injuries and inconsistency. 

The return of Ben Simmons offers a glimmer of hope for Brooklyn, but only time will tell if he can help steer the team back on course. As the season progresses, both teams exemplify the highs and lows of the league, each navigating their unique challenges in the quest for success.

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