The Knicks starting backcourt of Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker has played the Nets more recently than their Knicks teammates.
As Boston’s starting backcourt, Walker and Fournier battled the Nets in the first round last May, losing in five games.
This was before Kyrie Irving’s ankle sprain in Milwaukee ended his 2020-21 season. This was before Irving’s controversial decision to go unvaccinated against COVID-19 that could end Irving’s 2021-22 season before it begins.
Their rivalry growing, the fully vaccinated Knicks visit Brooklyn to face the first-place Nets on Tuesday in their season’s first meeting. They no longer play in preseason — part of the rivalry’s intrigue.
“With Boston, they were really good,’’ Fournier said. “Kyrie was playing. I mean, let’s be honest, if Kyrie and James Harden don’t get injured, they probably win it all. So they can be extremely good. I think they lost against Phoenix [Saturday], so they’re going to be motivated against us.’’
Evan Fournier (left) and Kemba Walker (right) have faced the Nets more recently than any of their Knicks teammates.
Fournier has heard from teammates what it’s like to be a Knickerbocker playing inside Barclays Center. Yes, it’s Garden East. Or better yet, Garden East River. Last season, the Nets won all three meetings, but crowds were either nil or very limited.
Tuesday’s game is part of the Knicks’ current six-game gauntlet in which they also will have faced the Bulls twice, the Lakers, Suns, Hawks and Nuggets.
“Obviously, we have a tough schedule ahead,’’ said Fournier. “I think we all know that. I’m new here, so I don’t know how much of a factor Nets versus Knicks is. I guess I’m going to find out. It’s good for the fans. Let’s say that.’’
The Knicks stand at 11-9 following their big 99-90 upset win Saturday over the red-hot Hawks — perhaps a night that can change the complexion of their season. They didn’t have Kemba Walker, Derrick Rose, Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson. The Knicks should have Rose back Tuesday.
“[Will it] give us momentum?’’ Fournier asked. “We’re going to find it out. After every good win, you build momentum and confidence. Consistency is key. We have to take the good stuff and do it all over again. It definitely can build momentum and get us on a roll and win a few games in a row. We just have to bring it every night.”
Tom Thibodeau was delighted with the 22 minutes rookie center Jericho Sims gave the Knicks in Atlanta. Sims, the 58th pick in the draft this year, scored six points, was 2-of-2 from the field, 2-of-2 from the free-throw line, made two highlight-reel blocks and had a sensational putback dunk off a Fournier miss. He was a plus-14 — second-best on the club — as he got paired with summer league teammates Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes on an effective unit.
“His athleticism, reaction to the ball, rim protection, he can go get rebounds in traffic and the way he runs the floor,’’ Thibodeau said in listing what he likes about Sims, a Texas product. “That [young] group can play fast and they did.’’Internet Explorer Channel Network