The New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets came off the All-Star break with big victories and a tough loss to the Boston Celtics. For the Knicks, the second unit shined in a huge second half against the Cleveland Cavaliers last Wednesday, while the Nets saw Brook Lopez put together a great effort vs. the Mavericks but injure himself later in the week, hurting both the Nets' playoff chances and the ability to acquire Dwight Howard. And of course, there's Deron Williams, who had a career-high 57 points on Sunday against the hapless Bobcats. That performance earned him the top spot in out weekly rankings.
SB Nation New York Top 5
1. Deron Williams - Nets
After scoring 20 points in the All Star game to help bring the East to the verge of a huge come from behind win, Williams turned in the best performance of his career. He dropped a mind-boggling 57 points against the Charlotte Bobcats on Sunday. Unlike some big-time scoring performances we've seen in the past, the Nets needed every one of D-Will's baskets in their 104-101 victory. With Brook Lopez out for at least three weeks, the point guard will need to stay offensive-minded every night.
2. Carmelo Anthony - Knicks
Those who are painting Anthony as an un-clutch based on missing a potential game-winner against the Celtics are totally lost (here's looking at you, mainstream New York media). First off, the Knicks had no chance of beating the Celtics if it weren't for Anthony, who matched Paul Pierce big shot for big shot in the fourth quarter until he missed at the buzzer. His 11 fourth quarter points were exactly what the Knicks need from him going forward, the ability to take over in crunch time. This time, he was just short of closing the game. Additionally, he had a very efficient 22 points, 5 rebound and 4 assist effort in the Knicks' win over the Cavs last week.
3. Brook Lopez - Nets
Speaking of the all-of-a-sudden injury prone center, Lopez earns a spot here for possibly the last time this season. He came out of the gate after the break like a man on a mission. He put up 38 in a win over the Dallas Mavericks Tuesday, 28 points against the Boston Celtics Friday and was getting into a groove early against the Bobcats (six points in 15 minutes) before severely spraining his ankle.
4. Jeremy Lin - Knicks
Despite not playing particularly well in the Knicks' loss to the Celtics last Sunday, Lin remains in the Top 5. On Sunday despite the overall underwhelming performance, Lin bounced back and showed a little more flair for the dramatic, scoring five huge points down the stretch to help the Knicks grab a lead, which of course they surrendered thanks to Paul Pierce's clutch 3-pointer. In last week's win against the Cavaliers, Lin had 19 points and 13 assists.
5. Gerald Green - Nets
He has only played three games with the Nets since signing his 10-day contract, but Green quickly showed he had what the team has been lacking all season: athleticism. He scored 11 points against the Celtics and despite only making one basket in the win over the Bobcats, it was a beautiful alley-oop. Finally seeing a Nets player live above the rim is a welcome change of pace.
SB Nation New York Bottom 5
1. Brook Lopez - Nets
For the first time in the history of our rankings, a player shows up in the Top 5 and Bottom 5. It's hard to blame a player for rolling an ankle, but the iron man label Lopez earned his first three seasons in the NBA is now clearly gone. This latest injury not only deals a blow to the Nets pursuit of Dwight Howard, but also their slim playoff hopes.
2. The Boston Celtics
They continue to beat the Knicks in haunting, gut-punching ways. I just dug up this unofficial stat: Kevin Garnett has set 47 illegal screens in his past six games against the Knicks, over the course of which Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have yet to miss a shot. Again, these stats are unofficial.
They also handed the Nets their only loss in their three games last week.
3. DeShawn Stevenson - Nets
His defensive intensity will always get him in the rotation, but it shouldn't be long before Green takes his spot in the starting lineup. Stevenson averaged a whopping 1 point and 3 rebounds this week, and put up an ugly 1-for-6 shooting Friday in a loss to the Celtics.
4. Landry Fields - Knicks
It was a rough week for Fields, who scored a combined five points in the Knicks' two games since the All-Star break. He was also replaced in crunch time against the Celtics by Iman Shumpert, a trend that will likely continue in tight games given Shumpert's excellent defense.
5. Johan Petro - Nets
Another downside to the Lopez injury is Petro will continue to stay in the rotation. Over the last week he has averaged 1.3 points and 6.3 points, shooting 2-for-9.