Kevin Durant has been superb since returning from a week on the side lines and Dave Gray thinks he can lead the Nets to a big win over crosstown rivals, the Knicks...
"In the two games since returning Durant has put up 70 points, 20 rebounds and 17 assists."
Brooklyn Nets @ New York Knicks
Thursday, 00:30 GMT
Live on Sky Sports Arena
Durant gives the Nets the edge
The Nets head across town to face the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Brooklyn have shown signs of getting it together and the return of Kevin Durant after four games out due to coronavirus protocols was certainly a boost. In the two games since returning he has put up 70 points, 20 rebounds and 17 assists. Kyrie Irving may not have been able to carry this team alone, but Durant can. Irving will miss this game along with Spencer Dinwiddie but as long as the Nets have Durant, they have a shot.
Even at 6-6, Brooklyn are playing very good basketball according to a number of advanced stats and I think we can expect them to be a team that really surges as we get further into the season. They have barely been able to play a game with a full strength team yet but when they do they have a great line up.
Knicks' shooting woes
The Knicks have been pretty solid overall this season. They have lost three straight games but after a strong start they are at 5-6. Defensively they have been very strong, but they do not score enough to remain competitive throughout the season. Last time out they shot just 39% from the field and up against a team like Brooklyn that will not be good enough.
RJ Barrett continues to improve as he starts his second season in the league, but he is a big part of the problem when it comes to shooting. He is playing more minutes per game than any player in the league and that may well be where the problem lies. At just 20 years old he needs to be rotated in and out a lot more to keep him fresh. In comparison to Barrett's 37.9 minutes per game, his fellow second year players Zion Williamson (31.8) and Ja Morant (27) are playing far less. It could become a real problem as we get deeper into this season that is already compacted due to COVID.
Defence not enough for the Knicks
Tom Thibodeau is really running his players into the ground and it is no surprise that they have had this slump. With Durant back the Nets just have too much firepower for a team sitting 29th in scoring. The Knicks are good, but not good enough defensively to limit Brooklyn to the sort of score they would need to to keep this one in reach.