Nets and Knicks catch fire heading into All-Star Break
by Noah Zimmerman
Mar 04, 2021 | 7024 views | 0 0 comments | 728 728 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Something special is happening on the courts in New York. For the first time in almost a decade, the Nets and Knicks are both playing must-watch basketball as they head to the All-Star break sitting near the top of the East.

For Brooklyn, a dominant season was expected. The return of Kevin Durant and addition of James Harden has created a remarkable trio that many expect to see deep in the postseason. Despite shaky games from time to time, the Nets caught fire in February, sweeping a Western Conference road trip as part of an eight-game winning streak.

The Nets tore through the West Coast, beating the Warriors, Kings, Suns, Lakers, and Clippers. The 5-0 cross country trip was the longest without a loss in franchise history, and it sent a strong message to the league as Brooklyn battled the 76ers for the top seed in the East.

After the streak was snapped on Saturday by the Mavericks, Brooklyn took on the Spurs in a Monday night thriller. In the final minutes, a ten-point Nets lead evaporated in dramatic fashion, capped by a Dejounte Murray buzzer-beater leveling the score at 108.

In the extra period, James Harden and Kyrie Irving took over to give Brooklyn their ninth win in their last ten. Harden recorded a seventh triple-double as a Net in just 22 games, already second in franchise history.

Monday’s win also broke an 18-year losing streak in San Antonio for the Nets, dating back to Game 2 of the 2003 NBA Finals. In post-game interviews, news of the nearly two-decade streak shocked both Harden and head coach Steve Nash.

Across town, the Knicks have quickly put together the makings of a remarkable underdog team. With many teams in the East underperforming, New York has jumped at a golden opportunity to climb the table.

A 9-5 record in February powered the Knicks into fourth place in the East. A 140-point explosion against the Kings, a tight win over the Pacers, and a dominant performance against the Pistons propelled the Knicks to 18-17, their best mid-season mark since the 2012-13 season.

Led by a breakout year by Julius Randle and a strong sophomore season from RJ Barrett, New York is eyeing a massive year that could signal the end of a long rebuild. New coach Tom Thibodeau has brought strong leadership to a promising young core, and the return of Derrick Rose adds a strong veteran presence to guide them on the court.

With a strong season and a chance for playoff experience, signs are showing that the Knicks could undergo some changes to bring primetime basketball back to Madison Square Garden, something that has been missing for far too long.

With the NBA season halfway done, it’s once again time for the league’s brightest stars to face off in the All Star Game. Twenty-four players will be heading to Atlanta for this weekend’s festivities, and for the first time since 2014 both New York teams will be well represented.

For the Nets, it’s no surprise that Durant, Irving, and Harden all earned All-Star selections. Unfortunately, despite gathering the most votes in the East and being chosen as one of the captains, Durant won’t take the floor on Sunday, as he continues to nurse a hamstring injury.

The Nets superstar still selected his team to take on the squad of LeBron James, with Jason Tatum replacing him in the starter pool.

For the Knicks, Julius Randle has been rightfully rewarded for a fantastic start to the year. Averaging a double-double with 23 points and 11 rebounds, Randle is taking off in his second year on Broadway.

Randle ranked seventh in the East’s frontcourt field, giving him his first All-Star appearance and the Knicks’ first selection since Kristaps Porzingis in 2018.

Also headed to Atlanta is Knicks rookie Obi Toppin. The New York native will compete in this year’s slam dunk contest, joining some big names on the big stage during halftime on Sunday.

Can’t-miss basketball has been brought back to New York City, and with both teams on fire at the halfway mark, fans are in for what’s sure to be a thrilling season. With play heating up and the playoff picture becoming a little more clear, the Knicks-Nets rivalry has a chance to take centerstage.

The second matchup of the year comes on March 15, and with bragging rights now on the line, we should be in store for a great contest.
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