Nets Prepare for Final Clash of the Boroughs

Monday afternoon, the 2012-13 Clash of the Boroughs comes to a close when the Brooklyn Nets take on the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks lead the season series, 2-1, but the Nets enter this game on a 10-2 run, as opposed to the 2-7 slide preceding the teams’ December 19 matchup.

Though the Nets are in a more confident place, and will have Brook Lopez available for this round, they’re quick to admit the Knicks also offer a different look. Injuries and recoveries have rejiggered New York’s lineup, which currently features Jason Kidd, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Copeland and Tyson Chandler, with J.R. Smith and a healthy Amar’e Stoudemire leading a dynamic bench unit of stellar shooters.

“They’re playing very well,” said Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo. “We don’t need to hype our guys up for this: it’s a division rival, it’s the other team in the city, they’ve beaten us two out of three, so what more? It’s Martin Luther King Day, it’s the Garden, it’s a big game for city basketball.”

The 3:30 p.m. matchup is part of the NBA’s nine-game Monday slate, a day-long tribute that tips off on national TV at 1 p.m. when the Memphis Grizzlies square off against the Indiana Pacers. For players like 18-year veteran swingman Jerry Stackhouse, it’s an honor to participate.

“I think that we’re fortunate,” Stackhouse said. “We play in a city where one of the pioneers who transcended sports played, in Jackie Robinson. And now we’ll get the chance to honor a man who transcended the world in his belief in equality. It’s a great thing.

“A lot has changed in a short amount of time, but with some of the issues we have in this society, we’ve got a long ways to go. I think his message is more important today than it ever was.”

Both members of “Brooklyn’s Backcourt,” Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, echoed the sentiment. Each is looking forward to the opportunity to honor Dr. King’s memory, while again playing on a major stage following the team’s Christmas Day game against the Boston Celtics.

Williams will be pitted against longtime friend and mentor Kidd, while Johnson faces Shumpert, the second-year guard who developed a reputation for smothering defense before going down with an ACL tear during the playoffs. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound guard debuted against the Detroit Pistons on Thursday, playing 15 minutes and posting eight points (3-7 FGs), two rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block.

“I think he came in with a defensive reputation and then in the last couple years it’s grown,” Williams said. “He usually takes the best perimeter defender, whether it’s 1, 2 or 3. He’s a strong, physical guy who can guard a lot of positions and use his athleticism. That’s a big reason for it.”

Shumpert, who shot 2-of-3 from three-point range, is just one of the capable shooters surrounding Anthony, the Knicks’ star forward, Anthony, a career 24.9-PPG scorer, is not only averaging a career-best 29.2, but also adeptly shifted to playing the 4 and distributing the ball.

“I think it’s tougher, but also to his credit, because he’s willing to distribute the ball,” Carlesimo said. “When you double him, trap him in a pick and roll, double him in an ISO, he’s willing to share the ball. Late in the game, he’s going to take the shot because that’s what he gets paid to do. But he’s a great player and has been a great player for a long time. I think he’s playing as well this year as he has in any year since he’s been in the league.”

Visit the Nets vs. Knicks Game Center for more about Monday's game.

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