The Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks are set to square off for the fourth time in 2012-13.
In a battle of two of the Eastern Conference's elite, the Battle for New York City will come to a head. As fate would have it, their final battle will be played at the mecca of basketball, Madison Square Garden.
Carmelo Anthony will look to close out the season series with a W, thus continuing his individual success against the Nets. All-Star contender Brook Lopez, meanwhile, will aim to rain on 'Melo's parade and make his case as a potential selection as an All-Star reserve.
So who will win the Battle for New York?
Time: Monday, January 21, 2013 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Records: Brooklyn Nets (24-16, 8-9 road) at New York Knicks (25-13, 14-5 home)
Betting Line: New York Knicks (-3.5)
Injury Report: Marcus Camby, Out (Foot); Raymond Felton, Out (Pinky); Rasheed Wallace, Out (Foot)
Key Storyline: The Final Battle for New York
When the Nets cross the Brooklyn Bridge to play the New York Knicks, it will be their final battle of the 2012-13 NBA regular season. For that reason, one can expect both sides to fight for the crown of New York.
If Brooklyn wins, it will have split the season series 2-2. If the Knicks secure the W, however, they will win the series by a count of 3-1.
In a city that has been built on pride, bragging rights will be on the line.
During their first matchup, the Nets secured a 96-89 overtime victory on November 26, 2012. Brook Lopez led the way with 22 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks as Brooklyn struck first. Ten of Lopez's points came during the fourth quarter and overtime.
On December 11, the Knicks exacted a measure of revenge and brought this rivalry to an even 1-1 mark. Carmelo Anthony scored 45 points to counter a team-high 23 from Lopez's injury replacement, Andray Blatche.
With 24 seconds remaining, Jason Kidd hit a three-pointer to seal a 100-97 victory over his former team.
Most recently, Brook Lopez and Deron Williams each posted 16 and 10 against their New York counterparts. Lopez did so with points and rebounds, while D-Will managed the feat with points and assists.
Unfortunately, their efforts weren't enough, as Carmelo Anthony poured in 31 points to lead the most lopsided victory of the series: 100-86 in the Knicks' favor on December 19.
On Monday, the Battle of the Boroughs will come to an end. Both teams will be forced to wait until the postseason to have a chance at squaring off again, which begs the question.
Will it be the new-school Nets that claim an even split of New York City? Or will the reborn Knicks prove, once and for all, that NYC remains theirs to own?
Tune in at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBATV to find out.
Key Matchup: Brook Lopez vs. Tyson Chandler
Thus far in 2012-13, Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez leads all centers in scoring, Player Efficiency Rating, Value Added and Estimated Wins Added. The Nets are 22-11 when he is in the rotation.
As biased fans look for a way to insert his rebounding woes into the conversation, Lopez is busy dominating the competition. That includes the New York Knicks, who Lopez torched on two separate occasions.
Lopez has averaged 19.0 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game against NYK.
What this means for the Knicks is that they have one priority above all else: stop Lopez from taking over the game. In order to achieve such a feat, look for reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler to be at his finest.
In three games against Brooklyn, Chandler is averaging 16.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.0 block. The Knicks are 2-1 in that time.
The question is: Will Chandler be able to outperform the NBA's most offensively productive center? If the Knicks are hoping to achieve victory, he'll at least need to slow Lopez down.
If Chandler fails to do so, Lopez will do what he's done all season: dominate the competition.
X-Factor: Reggie Evans, Brooklyn Nets
Thus far in the month of January, Reggie Evans is averaging 11.3 rebounds per game. More significantly, he's grabbing 3.0 offensive rebounds per contest. The Nets are 8-1 in that time.
With uncertainty at power forward for the Knicks, Evans is in prime position to dominate the glass, once again. Chances are, Evans will take advantage of this opportunity.
Evans has grabbed at least 15 rebounds in three of his past six games.
Should Evans dominate the glass against the Knicks, the Nets will be at an extreme advantage.
Brook Lopez has proven capable of putting this team on his back and leading them on both ends of the floor. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, meanwhile, are stars that are capable of taking over at any turn.
If Evans can capitalize on defensive stops and limit second-chance scoring opportunities, the Nets will control the pace of this game. If he fails to work his magic on the glass, however, the Knicks' dynamic offense may be too much to handle.
The true question is: How many minutes will Evans see?
The last time these two teams met, the New York Knicks won at home by a score of 100-86. Since then, the Knickerbockers are just 6-7 over their past 13 games.
Brooklyn, meanwhile, has won 11 of its last 15 games since it dropped one to the Knicks.
With this being known, it is fair to assume that momentum is in Brooklyn's favor. This should enable the Nets to run their offense early and work through Brook Lopez for a productive first half.
Although Carmelo Anthony is capable of matching Brooklyn step-by-step, there is one unknown—how far back is Amar'e Stoudemire?
Thus far in 2012-13, STAT has played eight games in his return from injury. Over the span of those outings, he has posted averages of 10.4 points and 3.1 rebounds in 20.8 minutes per game.
Most recently, Stoudemire scored 17 points in a 102-87 win over the Detroit Pistons.
Stoudemire's contributions will be welcome from an offensive standpoint, but he will not prevent the Nets from dominating the glass. Both Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche are rebounding at a high rate and will create second-chance scoring opportunities.
It is their contributions on the glass and Joe Johnson's uncanny ability to show up when it matters most that brings the Battle for New York to an even draw.
Look for 'Melo to score in bunches and J.R. Smith to follow suit. Unfortunately, it will not be enough to counter Lopez and Brooklyn's stars as they step up in the final period of play.
The Nets will secure a tight victory to bring an even draw to New York's battle for supremacy.
Brooklyn Nets 101, New York Knicks 96