The first battle for New York City bragging rights this NBA season is Wednesday night as the Knicks host the Brooklyn Nets. While Nets star Kevin Durant likely will get the occasional second game of a back-to-back off this year, he is expected to play – and will be sorely needed with fellow All-Star Kyrie Irving out again for personal reasons/COVID protocols. Wednesday also will be the return of Knicks rookie Obi Toppin from a long injury absence, but New York remains without second-leading scorer Alec Burks. The Nets are 6-point favorites on the William Hill Sportsbook NBA odds.
Durant was spectacular Tuesday in leading the Nets back from an 18-point home deficit to beat the Denver Nuggets 122-116. KD had 34 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds. The last Nets player to match or exceed those individual numbers in a game was Jason Kidd with 38 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists on Dec. 12, 2006. Durant (23,179 points) also moved into 28th place on the all-time NBA scoring list during the game, passing Elgin Baylor (23,149), Dwyane Wade (23,165) and Adrian Dantley (23,177).
There is no doubt the Nets would like to be cautious with Durant in back-to-backs, but if the franchise player wants to go, then the team basically has to let him. That the game is at historic Madison Square Garden probably plays a role, plus obviously no travel. "I plan on (playing)," said Durant, who hasn't played in a back-to-back yet this season. Irving's indefinite absence is putting a large burden on his 32-year-old teammate.
On Tuesday night, the Knicks had listed Toppin, the No. 8 overall pick in this year's draft out of Dayton, as out again but now he's listed as probable. The 2019-20 consensus National Player of the Year -- who might have led the Flyers to a national championship if the NCAA Tournament hadn't been canceled -- hasn't played since his NBA debut Dec. 23 due to a calf strain. The Brooklyn native had nine points and three rebounds in that game at Indiana, so this will be his Madison Square Garden professional debut.
Burks was off to a fabulous start to this season in averaging 20.7 points and shooting an incredible 66.7 percent from three-point range in three games but hasn't played since Dec. 27 due to an ankle sprain. Fellow shooting guard Reggie Bullock is listed as doubtful with a hip injury. Newly-signed big man Taj Gibson has cleared COVID protocols and could make his Knicks debut.
New York has covered the spread four straight in the series and the total has gone Under in the past nine. Brooklyn is 7-20 ATS in its past 27 in the second of a back-to-back.
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