It really was only two weeks ago that the Nets beat the Knicks at Barclays Center in overtime, an extremely exciting night that made one wonder if the Nets — who moved into a tie with the Knicks atop the Atlantic Division with the win — truly were about to take over. Since that night, the Knicks are 6-1 and the Nets are 2-4, currently ensconced in a four-game losing streak. A lot can happen in a fortnight.
The most striking thing from the last Knicks-Nets matchup at Barclays was just how 50-5o the crowd was; we argued it was like the Red River Shootout in college football, or the Busch Braggin' Rights game in college basketball, the rare game that has two separate segments of fans screaming passionately against each other in the same building. We wonder if it will be like that again tonight, or if it will be more Nets fans this time, with fewer Knicks fans coming over to make sure their voices are heard. Or if it'll be actually more Knicks fans, now that it's more of a "normal" game, now that some of the pomp is behind us.
It's sort of a shame these games are happening so quickly; two games at Barclays in the season's first month-and-a-half, and that's it, the Knicks won't be returning to Barclays until next year, barring a playoff matchup. (Which might be fun.) The Nets actually travel to Madison Square Garden a week from tomorrow, on December 19; the two teams will play again at MSG on January 21, and then that'll be it for their matchups. It's weird, it feels like the series is almost over for the year, and it just started.
The Nets probably need this game more than the Knicks do. That four-game losing streak has been a brutal one, with the last three losses coming at home. The major difference in the last week has been the absence of Brook Lopez, who is even more important to the Nets than anyone thought, apparently; he's a gametime decision tonight. This time, the Knicks will have Jason Kidd, and presumably Raymond Felton won't go 3-for-19 from the field again. The Knicks can take a four and a half game lead in the Atlantic Division with a win tonight, a game that will be followed by six consecutive home games. So if someone's going to slow down the Knicks before they run away with the division, it's gonna have to be the Nets.
In other words, this supposed "rivalry" game is actually vital to the standings. Which is all anyone can ask of a rivalry. This is gonna be really fun, again.