Nets, Knicks embrace intra-city rivalry
Wednesday’s 100-68 Knicks victory at Madison Square Garden was the third of four meetings between the teams, with all three having come within the last four weeks. The Knicks lead two games to one, with the final salvo in the intra-city series coming on January 21 at MSG.
With three games now in the books, there is no denying that at least this year, the rivalry is extra heated and the games are perhaps more pressure packed than usual; after all, the first two games went down to the wire, with the first going to overtime, and the third was another nailbiter until the Knicks pulled away late.
“It’s two teams fighting within the division, and tonight, we wanted to make a statement,” Knicks center Tyson Chandler said after Wednesday’s game. “The previous two games had been close with the Nets, and we felt like we gave one away.”
Nets coach Avery Johnson said prior to Wednesday’s game that he knew his team would be “extra pumped up” for the battle with the Knicks, and on the other side, the orange-and-blue embraced it as well.
“We know they are right there across the bridge; Brooklyn and the New York Knicks will always be there,” said Carmelo Anthony. “It will always be a rivalry from here on out, and we accept that challenge.”
The one player who has been on both sides of that rivalry is Jason Kidd, and he has been a difference maker for the Knicks so far during the Battles of the Boroughs; he missed the first one, the game in which the Knicks lost, but hit the game-winning shot on Nov. 26 and had a solid line of seven points, eight rebounds, and five assists on Wednesday.
Kidd said after the game that he wasn’t concerned about the Nets’ struggles, only about “taking care of home,” but Avery Johnson had some high praise for the player he coached briefly in Dallas in 2008.
“It’s no surprise (Kidd is playing well); he’s taken care of himself and stayed in good shape, and he’s kind of transformed his game by adding the three-point shot and being able to move over and play some two-guard,” Johnson said. “He’s really taken his game to another level, and he doesn’t look like a player headed to retirement anytime soon. It’s kind of like Magic (Johnson); as time went on, he developed that set shot, and took his game to a new level.”
And so, as Avery also said, Nets-Knicks is a matchup between “two talented teams that really have some great strengths,” and may be the biggest rivalry in an Atlantic Division that Johnson believes will be a “dogfight” all year. The Knicks are up in both the season series and division standings right now, but even though they only have one game left against each other, there are still more than 50 to go overall, so the Nets’ coach isn’t concerned.
“I just think when we’re playing well, we can match up with anybody,” he said. “It’s early, so depending on what happens, it could swing, and the team that gets hot at the right time is the team that will separate themselves.”
Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES