Nets-Knicks Preview


A lack of late-game execution has cost both the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets recently.

The two struggling Atlantic Division rivals try to right themselves Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, where the embattled Knicks host the Nets.

New York (8-15) is 3-5 in games decided by five or fewer points, but two of those losses have come in the last two games. After Amar'e Stoudemire failed to hit a game-tying 3-pointer in the final seconds of Thursday's 105-102 home loss to Chicago, both Landry Fields and reserve Steve Novak - who had not played the entire game prior to his insertion with four seconds remaining - missed late shots of their own as the Knicks squandered a 12-point second-half lead in a 91-89 defeat Friday at Boston.

"They were doubling and doing a good job. That's why other guys had to step up and make shots.'' New York coach Mike D'Antoni said after his team's final shots were not taken by Stoudemire or Carmelo Anthony, who had a team-high 26 points.

Despite having lost 11 of its last 13 overall and five of six at home, Anthony thinks his team is showing signs of improvement as New York wraps up this back-to-back-to-back stretch of games.

"I must say the last three days we've been playing way better than we did early on the season," said Anthony, who is averaging 28.1 points at home - well above his 23.8 overall mark. "I feel the chemistry is coming around. we're playing extremely hard offensively and picked it up defensively. It's just a matter of playing our games right now."

New York has held only one opponent under 40 percent shooting at home, while four have converted at least 50.7 percent of their attempts. The Knicks are yielding 98.3 points per game at MSG.

The Nets (8-16) also are trying to move on from a discouraging loss after a 108-105 home defeat to Minnesota on Friday night. Anthony Morrow made an NBA season-high eight 3-pointers and finished with a career-high 42 points, but New Jersey failed to get off a potential game-tying shot in the closing seconds after point guard Deron Williams lost his handle on the ball while trying to pass.

''Anthony was open, too,'' Williams said. ''It was an unfortunate turnover. Last two of the game are on me. I told the team it was my fault.''

Morrow, who sat out Wednesday's win over Detroit with a sore left ankle, has shot a combined 23 for 37 in his last two games - 13 of 24 from 3-point range - while averaging 35.0 points. He also scored 30 in a 120-116 loss to the Knicks at MSG on March 30, making 4 of 5 shots from beyond the arc and 10 of 15 overall.

Williams matched a season high with 14 assists in Friday's loss but also matched a season worst with six turnovers. After coming to the Nets from Utah in a midseason trade, he averaged 23.0 points and 10.0 assists in two games against New York in 2010-11.

The Knicks won all four games between the teams last season, with Anthony averaging 32.0 points and 12.0 rebounds in two matchups after New York acquired him from Denver. The Knicks have also won four of the last five meetings in the series at MSG.