If Monday’s 103-80 win by the Nets over the Knicks was any indication, it seems both squads are heading toward opposite ends of the spectrum.
The matinee affair was a striking dichotomy considering both teams endured the same early wakeup calls and lazy afternoon haze, but the Nets (17-22) broke out of theirs with little trouble. And as a result, Brooklyn has now won two straight and are just 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Raptors in the Atlantic Division, while the Knicks (15-26) are now stuck in a four-game slide.
“It is about those guys in the locker room. They all believe they can play both sides of the ball and they’re doing it at a high level as of late,” said Nets head coach Jason Kidd, who added there wasn’t anything extra special in beating his former team. “We have to keep building on it. … It’s just another game on the schedule and now we turn the page and get ready to play Orlando.”
Kidd was trying to downplay the win, but was clearly thrilled to see a well-rounded effort. Swingman Joe Johnson tallied a team-high 25 points and had his way with whichever Knicks’ defender had the misfortune of defending him.
“We play through Joe and he has been making a lot of great reads [by] scoring the ball and getting some wide-open looks,” said Kidd. “It is [contagious] because they’re all trying to make the right play.”
The Knicks, conversely, have looked like a rag-tag unit during their slide.
“Tonight, there wasn’t enough ball movement. When we are moving the ball, sharing it and cutting off it with pace we are a pretty good team. And when we’re not, we are a bad team,” Knicks head coach Mike Woodson said. “To compound that with bad defense is a bad combination.”
Carmelo Anthony had another solid output of 26 points and 12 rebounds, but outside of their All-Star forward, the Knicks received little else. Woodson sounded exasperated when detailing the team’s current ails, most notably a team-wide mindset that better offense will solve all their problems.
“You lose double digits again [so] there has to be more of a sense of urgency than the way we’re playing right now,” said Woodson. “We just can’t base it [success or failure] on how we play offense. When you’re struggling to score, you’ve got to make sure your defense is right where it needs to be to keep you in the game until you score.”
The Knicks shot a paltry 33.8 percent from the field, but what was more telling was how “sticky” the ball became when the offense bogged down, said Woodson. He lamented how hard it’s been for his team to get shots off, while opponents get many clean looks.
“We couldn’t hit shots and they got us in a bad rotation where we’d be scrambling [to guard open shooters],” said Woodson.
The coach also showed his frustrations at the team’s lack of ball security lately, as the Knicks had just 13 assists on their 24 made field goals and committed 17 turnovers — including an alarming seven in the opening quarter to set the futile tone. That assist-to-turnover ratio is a recipe for disaster.
The Nets, meanwhile, are enjoying their surge and foresee big things going forward.
“We’re still building. We have a good groove going on right now since the New Year,” said forward Paul Pierce. “The goal is to eventually get to .500 and continue to get better and make some noise in the East.”
New York’s star forward sounded like he wished he could be saying the same.
“I didn’t think we would be in this situation. I don’t know how to deal with a situation like this. I am learning [because] it’s the first time for me,” said Anthony, who stopped short of giving off a panicked vibe. “I don’t like losing. I’m not worried, though. I’m not at that point yet because I still feel like we can figure it out. … [But] everything was going good for us [during their recent five-game winning streak]. Guys felt good about themselves and there was a lot of confidence. But right now, we don’t have that as a team.”
Knicks notes …
»Brooklyn’s bench was a key figure in the demolition, as they outscored their counterparts, 50-33. Andray Blatche’s 19 points led the way, as every Nets player who checked in registered a point. Usual starting point guard Deron Williams came off the bench in his return to action as he added 13 points in 27 minutes of action after missing five games due to cortisone shots in both ankles.
»Not even the return of their usual sparkplug, point guard Pablo Prigioni, could help the Knicks. Prigioni, who missed 16 games with a foot injury, got the start alongside Raymond Felton but was equally ineffective registering just two points to go with two assists and three turnovers in 19 minutes of action.
»Felton’s play might’ve been the biggest culprit in the loss as he registered just nine points on 2-of-11 shooting and also added a meager six assists to go with his three turnovers.
»The current eight-game homestand is the Knicks’ longest since an eight-game stint in December 1986.
»New York is just 6-10 when Anthony posts a double-double. He had 26 points and 12 rebounds on Monday.
»Anthony has led the Knicks in scoring in 36 of the team’s 41 games and has led them in rebounding 26 times.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.