After watching the Knicks fall apart in the second half against the Thunder on national television, I took the subway down to Brooklyn for a freelance gig to cover the Nets matchup against the Pelicans. Ryan Anderson, Jrue Holiday, and Tyreke Evans would not play for New Orleans in this game. They had still found a way to win six of eight coming in to Kings County by running through Anthony Davis.
The Nets came out of the gates by playing strong team defense, and that continued for all four quarters, which is something that I haven't seen out of the Knicks for a while. The Pelicans were limited to only 28 first half points, 14 in each of the first two quarters. Since Brooklyn's vets sat out for a majority of the second half, New Orleans scored 53 the rest of the way to make the final 93-81 score look somewhat competitive.
Anyway, defense - that's the difference between the Knicks and Nets. Since January 14, the Knicks have gone 5-9. They've allowed over 100 points in 8 of those 9 losses. Meanwhile, the Nets have gone 8-4 since then, allowing a paltry average of 97 points per game.
For the Knicks, you can blame it on Tyson Chandler not being up to full strength, Raymond Felton for not defending ball handlers well, Mike Woodson for wanting to switch on every pick, etc.
I can't say I've been in both locker rooms enough to personally sense any differences in demeanor, but one thing is for certain. If both teams' defensive mentalities remain the way they are, the difference between the Knicks and Nets will be that one team will be playoff bound while the other will be home bound (and you know which one is which).