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Who is a bigger threat to catch the Knicks in the Atlantic Division, the Brooklyn Nets or Boston Celtics?
Joe Caporoso - Disregarding Brooklyn being 2 games back of the Knicks, while Boston is now 5.5 games back after a loss in Denver last night, the Nets still remain a bigger threat to snatch away the Atlantic Division title. The line of thinking that Boston is better off without Rajon Rondo is going to crumble as the difficulty of their schedule increases and they struggle to beat elite teams. They will still get into the playoffs in the watered down Eastern Conference and will be a dangerous match-up but in terms of sustainable success over the next 30 games, Brooklyn is a better candidate for it. The Nets have won three straight and have a solid, deep rotation regardless of what they do at the trade deadline. While they have a few notable limitations and a legitimate concern about the decline of DeRon Williams, they have been a comparable team to the Knicks since New York has cooled off after their hot start. This will be a tight race that I think the Knicks ultimately hold on to win but Brooklyn won’t make it easy.
Chris Celletti - It’s Brooklyn. I still don’t believe the Celtics are actually a better team without Rajon Rondo for the long-term. The post-injury wake up that the Celtics have seen happens a lot in sports, but Rondo is one of the best point guards in the game. He’s a walking triple-double when he has a shred of motivation Yes, Boston has veterans and champions on their roster, but their best player in 2012-13 is Rajon Rondo and he’s out for the season. The Celtics also have to play at Oklahoma City, twice more against Miami and twice more against the Knicks. The later the season gets, the more and more the Celtics will be missing Rondo, especially in those big games against Miami and the Knicks. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are gamers, and I still hope the Knicks can avoid them in the playoffs (I’d rather play Brooklyn in the playoffs than the Rondo-less Celtics, but that’s not what we’re discussing). The Celtics will indeed get to the playoffs, but I think they’ll finish 6th or 7th in the conference, and 3rd in the Atlantic. With an easier schedule, some younger legs and being just more healthy overall, the Nets will give the Knicks a run for their money for the division title. They already are.
Kevin Smith - Come playoff time, I want nothing to do with the Celtics, but does that mean they are the biggest threat to come between the Knicks and an Atlantic Division crown? Personally, I think Brooklyn is to be feared more. In the past, Doc Rivers has shown that he’s willing to take his foot off the gas a little bit in order to keep his veterans fresh for the playoffs. It’s not that Boston will completely shut it down and stop trying down the stretch, but they simply can’t keep up the torrid pace they’ve been on since losing Rajon Rondo. They are already five games out of the top spot, and if the Knicks can increase that lead late into the season, I can’t see why Doc would burn them out over the last few weeks. The Celtics know are a proven veteran team and know that they can win a playoff series without home court advantage.
On the other side, the Nets are still trying to find their identity as a team. They had a bunch of new pieces to acclimate throughout the season, and are looking to add more as tomorrow’s trade deadline looms. In order to build to team chemistry, they’re going to need to be at full speed every game and have a ton more to play for than Boston. Brooklyn is currently only two games behind New York, and with a rough patch in the Knicks schedule coming up, are a more realistic option to take the Atlantic Division lead.
Matt Fritz – Talent wise, I believe the Brooklyn Nets are more of a threat to catch the Knicks. However, with that being said, the veteran leadership of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce may carry the Celtics further and deeper in the playoffs than the Nets. The Knicks do not play the Nets anymore this year, and they have split their four meetings against them, winning two, and losing two. They have also split in their two meetings against the Celtics. It is also important to note that the largest margin of victory between the Knicks and the Nets was a seven point victory by the Nets in their first meeting back on November 26th.
The Knicks’ two victories against the Nets both were by a margin of three. So all were very close games. The same can be said about the two matchups against the Celtics so far this year. The Celtics had beaten the Knicks in their first meeting (the Cheerios game) last month at the Garden by six points, while the Knicks returned the favor at the Boston Garden by beating them by three.
They will each have another game at their respective venues in the second half, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out. In the end, with the loss of Rondo being so crucial, I still feel like the Nets are more of an immediate threat to the Knicks. It is also important to note that if these teams should meet in the playoffs, I think the Knicks along with their fans would much rather play a series in Brooklyn than in Boston
Tim Murray - In order to make a run deep into the playoffs it will be very important for the Knicks to keep the second seed in the Eastern Conference. By taking that second seed they will not only have an easier road to the finals but it will be likely that the earliest they would face the Miami Heat would be in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Currently the Knicks are 32-18 and lead the Atlantic Division. They have a 2.5 game lead over the Brooklyn Nets and a 5.0 game lead over the Boston Celtics. Although the Boston Celtics often seem to have the Knicks’ number as long as the duo of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett stays intact, the Nets pose the greater threat of taking the lead in the Atlantic Division.
Due to the absence of Rajon Rondo it seems unlikely that the Celitcs will match the productivity they had in the first half of the season. The Nets are also a recently constructed team bringing in Joe Johnson during the offseason. As the season continues they will improve their chemistry and each member of the team will come to a greater understanding of their role. I still like the Knicks’ chances but if either the Nets or the Celtics are to catch them, it will be the Nets.
Chris DiGioia - Although the Brooklyn Nets haven’t been the most consistent team of late, I still believe the team has completely bought into interim head coach P.J. Carlisimo. Coming off an incredible buzzer-beater win by Joe Johnson last night, the Nets are only two games behind the New York Knicks in the Atlantic Division. Deron Williams has seemed to be playing with much more a purpose due to the scrutiny he’s been receiving all year, and there’s clearly a chip on his shoulder for not being selected as an All-Star. Brook Lopez has been playing at an All-Star level himself, defending and rebounding as well as he ever has in his young career.
As my good friend and fellow staff writer Kevin Smith pointed out, Boston Celtics Head Coach Doc Rivers will not hesitate to pump the breaks on his veterans if their sitting comfortably. The Celtics have been surprisingly good since Rajon Rondo went down, but that’s bound to cool down. Anytime a team is throwing out different lineups because of an injury like Rondo’s, it requires time for opponents to adjust. Not to mention the Celtics have a bit more of a hill to climb, currently trailing the Knicks by 5.5 games. There is a massive amount of basketball to play in the regular season, and it’s crucial the Knicks win the games they should. With the Knicks and the Indiana Pacers owning the easiest schedules before the all-star break, their work will be cut out for them in the remaining 32 games.