We are two games into the Era of Two City Hoops Teams — seriously, please, someone come up with a catchy, "Subway Series" sort of name for these games; we're still using "Knicks-Nets" in a headline, for crying out loud — and while we might not necessarily know who the "king of the city" is, we do know one thing: These teams should probably just play every day. It might not bring out the best in both teams, but it certainly brings out the most dramatic.
The Knicks beat the Nets 100–97 last night in front of a roaring Barclays crowd that by several accounts felt a little less 50-50 than last time, but in the Knicks' direction rather than the Nets. (Just a little, though.) It was all you could want from one of these games: Back and forth, tense, a little sloppy, but fiercely competitive. We've been rereading David Halberstam's Breaks of the Game this week, and one of the primary themes is how difficult, with the grind of an 82-game season, it is for NBA players to work themselves up for regular season games. Apparently the Nets-Knicks games are a solution: These are playoff games in December. Everybody's frothing at the mouth during these.
It's clear at this point, as our own Seth Rosenthal put it on Posting and Toasting, that the Nets just have the Knicks' number in a lot of ways. The Knicks, who are 16-5 after all, have looked worse against the Nets than they have against just about everybody else, both defensively (the Nets had no trouble getting to the basket last night) and offensively (the Knicks had nothing but trouble getting to the rim). The difference between this game and the one at Barclays last month, though, was that the Knicks won this one.
The reason, as has been the primary reason all season, was Carmelo Anthony, who had another in a succession of Games of His Life. Anthony scored 45 points — his high as a Knick, and just five fewer than his career high, notched in 2007 against the Knicks — and bailed out the Knicks at every opportunity, including 15 points in the fourth quarter. (He was 5-for-7 from long range, as well.) At the beginning of the season, the general consensus was that for the Knicks to be the title contender they so desperately wanted to be, it would require Carmelo having an MVP-type season. It's difficult to argue that's not where he's at right now; this is Carmelo at his peak, the way he imagined it would be when he forced the trade here. He is saving the Knicks every night; he is elevating his game, every night.
Though, last night, the big shot came from Jason Kidd, the former Net, the man rejuvenated by what is starting to look like a legitimate one-last-run for a title. Those doubting the lots-of-Knicks-fans-at-Barclays meme can just watch the reaction to Kidd's game-winning three-pointer in the last minute.
That's quite the roar. (Nets fans have argued that should have been a foul on Kidd, and while that might true by the rule of law, it'd be pretty depressing to see a game as fun as this one end on a referee power tripping.) That's just a rare atmosphere. The Knicks have now won seven-of-eight heading into six consecutive games at home, and the Nets have now lost five in a row. Each team has plenty to work on and issues to deal with, including another game with each other, at MSG, a week from today. But at this point, it's obvious that, "rivalry" or not, these games are going to provide more than their money's worth, every time. The series at Barclays, for this season, is now already done. Unless they meet in the playoffs. We find ourselves salivating at the possibility. Nets-Knicks, every night, please.