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Nets Strike First, Take Down Knicks in Overtime

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

In the first meeting between the two NYC teams, the Nets sent a message that they are here.

Nets Strike First, Take Down Knicks in Overtime

The "Battle of the Boroughs" finally took place last night after being delayed nearly a month due to Hurricane Sandy.  The Brooklyn Nets outlasted the New York Knicks 96-89 in overtime to take the inaugural meeting between between New York's two teams.  The game has been over for quite some time, yet I'm still not exactly sure how I feel about it or what to take from it.  It was a highly entertaining game between two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, but it was also incredibly sloppy.  Neither team was at the top of their game, but the Nets played well enough down the stretch to come away with the win behind a stellar performance from Deron Williams (16 points, 14 assists, six rebounds, and three steals).

The Knicks got strong performances from Carmelo Anthony (35 points, 13 rebounds) and Tyson Chandler (28 points on 12-13 shooting and 10 rebounds), but contributions were hard to find elsewhere.  No other Knicks scored in double figures.  Raymond Felton shot a putrid 3-19 from the field, and the bench contributed just 13 points, one less than Brooklyn's Jerry Stackhouse (14 points, including four back-breaking threes).

The Nets deserve all the credit, though.  They made the big shots (think Stackhouse's threes).  They never let New York go on any sustained runs without keeping the lead close (New York's largest lead was just seven points, which happened once late in the third quarter before giving up a large run).  Brook Lopez played a terrific game, going for 22 and 11 with five big blocks.  Gerald Wallace played great defense and chipped in 16 points.  Reggie Evans was a force on the glass off the bench, grabbing 14 rebounds in under 18 minutes.  Brooklyn's players really stepped up, whereas plenty of New York's role players couldn't find ways to help out.  

And Williams was the catalyst behind everything.  He played some brilliant basketball, dropping pinpoint passes left and right and scoring when he had to.  He had total control of the offense and clearly got the best Felton and whoever was matched up with him.  Williams was the calming force on offense for Brooklyn that New York lacked throughout the game.

Yes, the Knicks were without several key pieces (Amar'e Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert, and Jason Kidd all did not play), but even without them they had the ball and the last shot of a tie game at the end of the fourth quarter.  Excuses can be made, but the Knicks had their chances (17-24 on free throws, including just 10-16 for Anthony) and couldn't convert.  If New York had won at the end of regulation, we'd be talking about the free throw that Brook Lopez missed with just 24 seconds left.

As far as the impact of the game on the balance of power in New York City basketball, I think there was a tangible yet not totally substantial one.  Yes, this was the first game between the Knicks and the team they must now share the city with.  Yes, this was the first time the Knicks and Nets have played each other when both teams have had winning percentages above .600 (per Jake Appleman).  History was made with the game, but that doesn't mean the Knicks are all of a sudden history in NYC.  No team wants to let the new guy get the first win, but that's what the Nets did to the Knicks.  However, this game doesn't emphatically answer the question "Who is the best team in the city?"  You know why?

There is still more than three-fourths of a regular season, plus a postseason, left to determine that.  Sure, saying that might seem like a cop-out, but there is no way to definitively say whether one team is better right now.  One game isn't a large enough sample size.  Were the New York Giants the best team in football back in 2007?  Absolutely not.  The New England Patriots were.  But in one game, the Giants were better than the Patriots and won the Super Bowl.  

The Nets and the Knicks still have three more meetings in the regular season, and they could even meet up in the postseason if things shake out that way.  There is still a lot of time for both teams to prove they own the city.  Brooklyn won the first battle of the war last night, and the Nets certainly looked like a formidable and worthy opponent in this battle for New York.  They looked like, and were, the better team.  December 11th, their next meeting, can't come fast enough.


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