Carmelo returns against soft Nets defense, sparks Knicks win

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We’ve got a way to go before this “battle of the boroughs” resembles a real rivalry. Or maybe even a fair fight.

After Wednesday night, the once-hot Brooklyn Nets are 2-8 in their last 10 games, and it all comes back to defense. Which we thought would be a weakness before the season even tipped off and it has been a trouble spot lately.

It showed up again Wednesday night facing the best offense in the NBA in the New York Knicks — and on a night they got Carmelo Anthony back. ‘Melo went for 31 points and the Knicks pulled away in the fourth quarter on their way to a comfortable 100-86 win at home. Comfortable as in this didn’t feel like a rivalry. Or a huge challenge. The Knicks are now up 2-1 in the season series on the Nets.

In their three meetings this season, Anthony has scored a combined 110 points.

The outcome here shouldn’t be a shock. In the Nets 10 games prior to this, they had given up 108.6 points per 100 possessions, which would be worse than the Hornets or any team has given up all season long. Then the Knicks came through and put up 114.3 on Wednesday night.

Antony was at the heart of it, putting up 17 points in the first half and being a key part of the 18-6 run where the Knicks took control of the game in the third quarter.

It was a night where the Madison Square Garden fans and the Knicks bench seemed flat, with the exception of J.R. Smith. The Knicks gunner sixth man had 19 points, five rebounds and three assists.

For the Knicks, this felt like a professional win. The kind really good teams have — they were not spectacular or dominant in any one area, they just executed when they had to and were better than their opponent in pretty much every category.

For the Nets, they got a close look at how far they are away from elite right now.

There is a lot of talk about the Nets offense — Deron Williams 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting Wednesday — complained before the game and Joe Johnson said after the game there is too much isolation. Normally I’d say a coach as tied to management as Avery Johnson is safe, but the Nets have pretty much locked themselves into this roster for a couple years. If the players can’t change…

Johnson needs to get them to. He needs to get them to defend, first, find some direction in the offense second. Because things are starting to go bad in Brooklyn and it could get a lot worse. Especially when they have to watch that team in Manhattan continue to look like a contender.

Rockets’ Clint Capela on Warriors: ‘I expect to beat them’

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During the 2014-15 season, Rockets star James Harden said the Warriors “ain’t even that good.”

Golden State went on to reach the last three NBA Finals, twice beating Houston in the playoffs, and win two championships.

The Rockets have since re-tooled around Harden, Chris Paul and several quality role players and are in first place. Houston looks like the biggest threat to the Warriors in the Western Conference.

Rockets center Clint Capela on the Warriors, via Dave Schilling of Bleacher Report:

“I expect to beat them,” Capela says.

That’s a fine sentiment. Saying it publicly is another matter. Not even Harden did that a couple years ago. He was recorded during a pregame team huddle.

There’s a fine line between self-fulfilling confidence and providing bulletin-board material to the opponent. There’s already some animosity between the teams stemming from the Stephen Curry-Harden MVP race in 2015, and it has bubbled since. No matter how harmless Capela’s remark might have been intended to be, it’ll be met contentiously in the Bay Area.

PBT Extra Player of the Week: Victor Oladipo

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Oklahoma City traded for Victor Oladipo out of Orlando to be their third scorer, behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It didn’t exactly work out that way, Durant bolted town and when Westbrook went off Oladipo was looking for a place to fit in.

That place turned out to be the Pacers.

Oladipo has been playing like an All-Star this season with Indiana, and last week he was key in snapping Cleveland’s 13 game win streak, then turned around and dropped 47 points on Denver. For the week he averaged 35.7 points a game, shot 45.7 percent from three, plus grabbed 7.7 rebounds per game.

That will get you named the PBT Extra Player of the Week.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.

John Wall returns for Wizards-Grizzlies

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.

Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.

The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.

“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”

Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.