The Knicks were in Brooklyn last night (Wednesday) to play the Nets, a fragile and disjointed team that was without All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, who was suspended by team CEO and governor Joe Tsai last week for a minimum of five games. The banishment came after Irving failed to put forth what Tsai deemed to be an adequate apology for posting a link to a movie on his Twitter account that has been characterized as antiSemitic.
The Nets also announced on Wednesday that Jacque Vaughn, who was named the interim head coach when former head coach Steve Nash was fired on Nov. 1, had been installed as the team’s permanent head coach with a contract that runs through the 2023-24 season.
Last night was the first time this regular season the Knicks and Nets have met. The Knicks were 5-5 prior to the matchup and the Nets were 4-7. What has stood out thus far for the Knicks is that they have handled the team they seemingly should beat but have not fared well against the NBA’s better competition.
Heading into last night’s game, the Knicks had defeated the Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Charlotte Hornets all at Madison Square Garden, the Philadelphia 76ers on the road who were without stars James Harden and Joel Embiid, and the Minnesota Timberwolves on the road on Monday, a group that was missing center Rudy Gobert, a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year who is averaging a league leading 13.9 rebounds. Gobert was in the league’s health and safety protocols when the Knicks took down the Wolves 120-107.
The Hornets, the Pistons—who the Knicks will face again at the Garden tomorrow night—and the Magic were the bottom three teams in the Eastern Conference standings as of yesterday. Conversely, the teams to whom the Knicks had experienced all of their losses—the Memphis Grizzlies, Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics—are among the most talented clubs in basketball.
To be more than just a team that will have to claw for a Play-In Tournament spot, the Knicks must gain a representative number of victories versus the league’s top teams. They have been getting balance from their lineup, with head coach Tom Thibodeau shuffling his rotation. One player whose numbers are down is guard Evan Fournier, the Knicks’ best perimeter shooter.
After averaging 14.1 points per game last season in 80 starts, and setting the Knicks’ single season three-pointer mark with 241, the 11-year veteran had come off of the bench in three of the Knicks’ ten games prior to last night and his point-per-game average was down six points from a season ago to 8.1. Fournier’s reduction in scoring correlated with his lower shot attempts, down from 12.1 to 7.3.