Preview: Nets seek rivalry win against Knicks to keep momentum going

Brooklyn hopes to keep its strong Barclays Center record against the Knicks going on Thursday

BROOKLYN -- The Nets (11-15) will look to even the season series against their cross-bridge rivals when the Knicks (14-13) visit Barclays Center. Brooklyn dropped its first matchup against New York in a lopsided 107-86 loss at the Garden, but the team usually fares much better at home – where it has won six of its last seven games against their neighbors.

Due to the recent struggles of both teams, the Clash of Boroughs series has cooled over the past few years. Yet, the rivalry might be picking up again as both sides are battling to end their current playoff droughts. The Knicks have the same record as the eighth-seeded Pistons, with a tie-breaker pushing them to ninth place. Brooklyn currently sits in 11th in the Eastern Conference, but it is just 2.5 games back a playoff seed. A positive result on Thursday could go a long way towards building momentum.

Here are the Key Things to Watch For:

Key Matchup: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson vs. Kristaps Porzingis

Kristap Porzingis has elevated his game to an elite level this season, averaging 26 points ppg after putting 18 ppg last year. He can be almost impossible defend due to his unique combination of size, ability to score from anywhere and underrated ball-handling skills. He’s also a decent defender, as he gets over 2 blocks per game. There’s a reason why he’s called the unicorn.

Porzingis was a big reason why the Knicks secured a victory in the series opener, but Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has had some success in guarding him in the past. Hollis-Jefferson memorably held the Latvian big man to a 7-for-16 night in the Nets’ 120-112 victory last season. The third-year player admits the two players have a friendly rivalry on the court, saying there’s no trash-talking but when it’s on, it’s on.

“We give each other the look,” Hollis-Jefferson said with a smile at Wednesday’s practice.

Hollis-Jefferson then revealed a bit about how he guards Porzingis, despite a fairly-significant height difference (7-foot-1 vs. 6-foot-7).

“In the end of the day, it’s just about being more aggressive,” he explained.

He then added, “Every time we’ve played against each other, we’ve both made each other better…He knows what he’s going to get from me. A guy who’s gritty and going to play defense and vice-versa, I know what I’m going to get from him. It depends. It comes down to who is going to compete harder.”

Can Nets Take Advantage of Knicks’ Road Woes?

The Knicks have made plenty of progress this season, but playing on the road is a major problem for the team. New York is 1-8 in away games this season, with their only win coming against Cavaliers when the home side was in an early-season funk.

Barclays Center is less than six miles away from Madison Square Garden, so travel isn’t an issue. But there’s clearly a mental advantage for the home team as evidenced by the aforementioned success by the hosts. Brooklyn needs to capitalize to get their 12th win of the season – a mark it didn’t reach until March last season, ironically against the Knicks.

Will Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas Play?

Okafor and Stauskas’ arrival from Philadelphia has generated plenty of excitement from both Nets fans and the NBA, but Kenny Atkinson insists he’s going to be cautious in integrating both into the rotation.

“I just think it’s going to take time,” Atkinson said Wednesday after practice. “I can’t give you a timetable.”

The Nets coach had plenty of praise for both players’ work ethic. He’s been impressed with the “business-like” approach from Okafor and appreciated Stauskas’ attentiveness during the game against the Wizards.

“It’s nice to have good dudes,” Atkinson said. “It’s good for our chemistry.”

Okafor appears to be receptive towards the team easing him into its strategy.

“They know my weaknesses and strengths and I’m working with them every day to get better,” he said. “They already told me what they want me to work on and like I said, I’m all in.

“[I’m] just getting used to the pace. That’s the main thing. Especially with me really not having played at all this year.”

Brooklyn Nets Stat Leaders

Upcoming Summer League Games

2018-19 Season

  • away game
    FridayFri Jul 06 Cox Pavilion, Las Vegas, NV
    L 80-86

    TEAM LEADERS OF THE GAME

    S. Dawson
    19PTS
    Shawn Dawson
    S. Christon
    4ASTS
    Semaj Christon
    J. Webb III
    8RBS
    James Webb III
    NBA TV
  • home game
    SaturdaySat Jul 07 Cox Pavilion, Las Vegas, NV
    L 76-90

    TEAM LEADERS OF THE GAME

    T. Pinson
    16PTS
    Theo Pinson
    J. McLaughlin
    6ASTS
    Jordan McLaughlin
    T. Thompson
    7RBS
    Trevor Thompson
    NBA TV
  • away game
    MondayMon Jul 09 Cox Pavilion, Las Vegas, NV
    L 69-78

    TEAM LEADERS OF THE GAME

    Y. Watanabe
    14PTS
    Yuta Watanabe
    J. McLaughlin
    5ASTS
    Jordan McLaughlin
    J. Allen
    12RBS
    Jarrett Allen
    ESPNU
  • away game
    WednesdayWed Jul 11 Cox Pavilion, Las Vegas, NV
    L 102-109

    TEAM LEADERS OF THE GAME

    M. Doyle
    21PTS
    Milton Doyle
    M. Doyle
    6ASTS
    Milton Doyle
    J. Allen
    11RBS
    Jarrett Allen
    ESPN 2
  • away game
    FridayFri Jul 13 Cox Pavilion, Las Vegas, NV
    L 79-116

    TEAM LEADERS OF THE GAME

    T. Davis
    19PTS
    Tyler Davis
    J. McLaughlin
    5ASTS
    Jordan McLaughlin
    T. Thompson
    9RBS
    Trevor Thompson
    ESPNU