Scouting the Enemy: Watching the Nets Play in Brooklyn

With the Knicks and Nets set to ignite their newly revamped local rivalry Monday night in the Big Apple, it’s important to understand what kind of firepower the Nets will come at the Knicks with later on when they stroll into Brooklyn.

Or lack there of.

On Sunday afternoon, I ventured out to enemy territory to watch the Nets take on the Blazers at the Barclays Center. At 8-4 (currently good for one game behind the Knicks), Brooklyn has to be doing something right. Making many changes to its roster this past summer, the Nets retooled by adding an offensive star in Joe Johnson, pairing him up with resident superstar Deron Williams. What’s more, on paper, the team appears even stronger, with capable role players from A to Z.

The Nets started Sunday’s contest off with a bang, as Joe Johnson did his best Carmelo Anthony impression to score double-digits in the first quarter alone. Brooklyn had a two-point lead at the end of the period, and the game stayed relatively close throughout. The two teams went toe to toe until the final quarter arrived, when the Nets simply started making more shots, and Portland simply did not.

Though they came away with a 96-82 win, the victory was a rather sloppy one for the Nets. If the way they played on Sunday was any indication as to how they’ll do tonight, the Knickerbockers can be conservatively optimistic.

Without Mike D’Antoni, perhaps New York’s offense doesn’t run and gun as much as it used to. That said, there’s a lot more pep in their offense’s step that in the Nets’.

The Nets are more of a slow and steady team, which didn’t really seem to work out for the best at all times. Experiencing his own personal struggles from the field, Deron Williams was forced to move the ball around frequently on Sunday.

 He effectively did this, and actually ended up with 12 assists. That said, it could be argued that the floor general could have finished with even more dimes. Despite efficiently setting up his teammates nicely, the Nets failed to convert at times, only shooting 42% as a team.

From an unbiased opinion, Kris Humphries was surprisingly the best player on the court for Brooklyn. Not only was the big man efficient when it came to his own scoring (he poured in 14 points on 7 of 9 shots  from the field), but he also created and kept alive a few extra offensive opportunities for his teammates. Humphries grabbed 10 rebounds, and 4 of those boards happened to be offensive.

Heading into Monday’s matchup with the Nets, that’s the one thing the Knicks may have to be afraid of. With so many weapons in their rebounding arsenal, the Nets have the potential to display a lot of fight underneath the basket. In addition to Humphries, the Nets also have Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche ready to jump off the bench and grab some boards. Even the taller Brook Lopez was able to grab 8 boards against Portland.

As far as the venue itself goes, the Barclays Center was actually filled with a relatively quiet crowd. One would think, with all the hype surrounding the Nets’ new home in Brooklyn, its fan base would be much more charged up. With that in mind, it’ll be interesting to see if Knicks fans actually do take over the arena later this evening.

Will it be more of a home game for the Knicks, or will the Nets assert themselves firmly as a co-existing team in the Big Apple? We can only wonder for now what the atmosphere is like.

If they want to win, the Knicks will have to overcome what’s sure to be (if nothing else) a rather gritty effort by the Nets. It should prove to be a fun and exciting game for both squad as they each aim to prove their New York’s team.

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