Kyrie Irving’s first game-clinching shot for the Brooklyn Nets occurred two months ago against the New York Knicks on his new homecourt.
His next chance at a game-clinching bucket will not happen Thursday when the Nets host the Knicks in the third meeting between the intracity rivals.
Irving will miss his 19th game due to a right shoulder impingement, an injury initially sustained Nov. 12 in Utah and an ailment he tried to play through two nights later in Denver. Before that, he was averaging 28.5 points, and in Brooklyn’s 113-109 win on Oct. 25 he scored 26 points and hit the go-ahead 3-pointer over Knicks rookie RJ Barrett with 22 seconds left.
The Nets are being cautious about Irving’s injury, and it appears he will be out a few more weeks. Without Irving, the Nets are 12-6 and Spencer Dinwiddie’s seamless transition into the starting lineup is a primary reason.
Dinwiddie is averaging 22.7 points overall but as a starter, he is averaging 26.1 points on 44.5 percent shooting. He has at least 20 points in a career-best seven straight games and 16 of his last 18 contests.
On Saturday, Dinwiddie helped the Nets get their latest win. He scored 16 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter after picking up his fifth foul in the third quarter, as the Nets rallied from 18 points down to get a 122-112 home win over the Atlanta Hawks as former Lakers star Kobe Bryant watched from courtside.
“I didn’t feel, really, the whole game that we were going to win this,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said after his team outscored Atlanta 37-14 in the fourth. “I felt like they outplayed us. It’s a testament to their character and their heart and how hard they played. Really, an emotional, character win for our group.”
Dinwiddie’s production is also helping the Nets ease the blow of Caris LeVert’s absence due to right thumb surgery. LeVert appears to be getting closer as he began contact drills in practice Monday, but it is unlikely his return will be Thursday.
The Knicks are hoping to display better focus as they play their 10th game since interim coach Mike Miller replaced David Fizdale on Dec. 6 following a 37-point home loss to Denver. The Knicks are 3-6 under Miller and enter on a three-game losing streak.
After never leading in double-digit losses to Miami and Milwaukee over the weekend, the Knicks took a 121-115 home loss on Monday to the Washington Wizards. After blowing a 13-point first-quarter lead, players admitted that focus was missing.
“I think our approach the whole day was terrible,” New York forward Julius Randle said. “From shootaround on, I think we had a bad approach as a team collectively, top to bottom, myself included. We could have been better. We jumped out on them, got the lead and didn’t sustain it.”
Randle scored a season-high 35 points against Washington and has scored in double figures in nine straight games.
The Knicks will be hoping for another big game from Randle, especially if leading scorer Marcus Morris sits out again. Morris leads the Knicks at 18.4 points and is shooting 46.6 percent from 3-point range but is considered questionable due to a sore left Achilles.
Morris did not practice Tuesday and if he sits out Thursday, Kevin Knox will likely start at forward.
The Nets have won four straight and five of the last six meetings with the Knicks.
–Field Level Media