It’s a new-look, New York rivalry, and it got off to a cracking start.
After superstorm Sandy ruined the hopes of the originally scheduled November 1st meeting between the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, due to be the first regular season game to be played at Barclays Center, the anticipation for this encounter, three weeks later than planned was evident.
As the United Kingdom STILL doesn’t have a TV rights deal for the NBA yet, I along with thousands of other Brits are having to make do with League Pass, which means continuously dodgy picture quality. Luckily, on this night, the feed from Brooklyn was free-flowing and apart from a two second panic in the second quarter, watched the game trouble free.
It wasn’t just a battle on the court, it was a battle in the stands as well. Knicks’ fans chanting was met with the Nets’ fans countering back. The amount of times “Brook-lyn, Brook-lyn” was shouted during the game was obvious. And the message was clear: This is Brooklyn’s house.
On the court, it was like game seven of the Playoffs - not game 12 of the regular season - at least it felt like that sitting by the laptop. Neither team led by as many as seven points, both were trading blows, trading buckets at various stages, every bucket was celebrated like someone had scored a 90th minute wondergoal (well, nearly every bucket) and the atmosphere, as I’ve mentioned; intense.
Brooklyn Nets needed overtime to see-off the Knicks, but more importantly, to win the first game of the boroughs. The 96-89 scoreline for me was a fair reflection of the game itself, especially in overtime, where the Nets dominated the final three minutes of the extra session.
Deron Williams was outstanding and the Knicks simply could not contain him. Jason Kidd was out with back spasms for New York and it allowed D-Will to enjoy some nice looks. 16 points, 14 assists and three steals was the difference and he was one of two Nets players to get double-doubles. Brook Lopez’s 22 points and 11 boards were vital also to the Nets’ win but a lot of his points came off Williams.
Brooklyn’s veteran got it done too, if you get a chance to watch the match, check out Jerry Stackhouse’s performance. The journeyman played 22 minutes and went 4/6 from the field for his 14 points but he did so much more than play to more than what coach Avery Johnson wants him to. Stackhouse organised and captained the side when out on the court and was the voice of reason most of the time, he understood New York’s sets well, especially the ones drawn up for Carmelo Anthony.
Offensively, Jerry knew his role and played it perfectly, he knew his limits and his shot selection was smart. For a guy that has been there and done it, you couldn’t fault his effort here. Johnson isn’t a fan of playing Stackhouse normally, especially during back-to-backs, but Wednesday’s game in Boston against the Celtics could see Johnson change his planning. Personally, I think it’s unlikely.
The Knicks shot the ball poorly and with Kidd out injured, this was time for Raymond Felton to do even more damage than usual with more minutes than what he’s getting, which is enough, I know, but still…he fluffed his lines and shot a woeful 3/19 from the floor, and turned it over five times, a definite off-day for him.
I looked at the stats this morning and saw that JR Smith played 41 minutes. He was on the floor?! Usually an effective player, coming off the bench, Smith merely provided the Knicks with five points, though he quietly got seven rebounds.
Carmelo was his usual self, but despite his renowned clutch performances, he took that a bit too far in this game. Anthony has this tendency to try and do it all himself, and because this was his home town of Brooklyn, he saw his chance to out-stage the more organised Nets. Sure, he went for 35 points and 13 rebounds, but he took a few poorly timed jumpers, was non-existent on defence, which is to be expected but most importantly, Anthony, usually a good foul shooter went 10/16, something he knows he can do better with.
For me personally, Tyson Chandler was the Knicks MVP. 28 points, 10 rebounds and two steals. He bossed it inside, 12/13 from the field and seven offensive boards tells you what he did, offensively. Defensively, he was solid and even though he finished on five fouls made a contribution on that end.
The Nets drew first blood and they now share top spot in the tight Atlantic Division with their close rivals from over the bridge. But the new kids on the block are 1-0 up, and we only got two weeks until the Knicks return to Brooklyn.