Regular-season games are must-see TV about as often as Raymond Felton shoots 3-of-19 in the field, but both certainly happened Monday night.
The Nets turned back the Knickerbockers in overtime in the first game of their long-awaited, much-debated Battle of the Boroughs, and here’s what I got out of it:
- Both teams have 50-win potential, but give the edge to the Nets in the postseason. The Knicks average about more 15 points per game from beyond the arc, which doesn’t figure to translate well in a “grindfest,” as TNT analyst Steve Kerr coined his new term for the playoffs. The situation may change next month, when Amar’e Stoudemire is expected to return to the Knicks’ lineup for better or for worse.
- Charles Barkley, TNT heavyweight and Knicks antagonist: “The Nets are the best team. You take away Carmelo Anthony (game-high 35 points), the Nets are better at every other position. Also, the (Nets) got a better bench than the Knicks. They’ve got a better team.”
- Everybody Loves Raymond, but I don’t like this one as my go-to guy late in a close game. What was Felton thinkin’ when he hoisted another unforced brick in the final minute of regulation play? After the point guard missed six of his previous seven shots in the period, no less? If Jason Kidd (back spasms) were available, the outcome might have been different.
- As the Nets’ only accomplished post presence, Brook Lopez is the one player they can least afford to lose. His 0.63 points per minute lead the team. Reserve Andray Blatche (0.52) is a distant second among the bigs. (But as for rebounding, the Nets have one of the best in the business. Check out this awesome Reggie Evans profile from colleague Jeremy Bauman.)
Per Josh Newman of SNYNets.com: “It’s always exciting and fun to go out and play against some of the top centers in the league,” (Knicks counterpart Tyson) Chandler said. “(Lopez) is a big body down there, he’s a good player, a good matchup. Hopefully, the fans enjoyed it.”
- The Nets and Knicks won’t be a Brooklyn black-and-New York-blue, blood-and-guts, He-Hate-Me rivalry until they butt heads in a playoff series. If this is a sneak preview, then here’s one vote for a best-of-nine series.
Now for the rest of the story at Barclays Center, which was covered by the New York media like no basketball game has been covered in ages …
Harvey Araton of the New York Times: “Really mixed, almost like a tournament atmosphere,” said the Knicks’ Marcus Camby, a Clipper as recently as 2010, after the Nets’ 96-89 victory. “Reminded me of when I was with the (Los Angeles) Clippers last year and you’d get so many Lakers fans,” said Reggie Evans, the Nets’ Rodmanesque rebounder. “You’re talking about the Lakers and they got, what, 18 championships?”
Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News: “No ticker-tape quite yet. But the game on Monday night wasn’t just a historic intersection for the Nets and Knicks. It marked a grand occasion for pro basketball in New York, the start of something potentially big, competitive and alluring. The Giants and Jets have bullied the NBA in our area recently, stolen all the autumn headlines and hype. Here was the chance, finally, for basketball to kick-start a rivalry and reclaim the hearts and hormones of the city.
Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: The split was about 60-40, but the Nets fans made their presence felt throughout the game, and particularly as the final seconds ticked off the clock in overtime and the victory was in hand. “Every time some sort of Knick contingency started to cheer, our fans got louder,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said. “This is what we have been dreaming about since I have been here. “It is a nice feeling and I am glad we rewarded our fans with a victory — they deserved it.”
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: “I guess you can say this is the start of something,” Anthony said. “A rivalry does grow in Brooklyn. The Nets have a beautiful new building, a revamped roster and an energized fan base that throughout the night chanted “Brook-lyn, Brook-lyn.” There were a few A-list stars on hand, including minority Nets owner Jay-Z and his famous wife, Beyonce. Mayor Bloomberg was in attendance as well as several current Giants and one ex-Giant turned morning television host, Michael Strahan. As usual, there were plenty of traveling Knicks fans but they were outnumbered and shouted down by Nets supporters. Now that’s a first. “It was cool,” said Nets guard Joe Johnson. “This is what the fans live for.”
Of course, there was news elsewhere, and some very strange happenings (aside from the Thunder’s 64-24 lead over the Bobcats at halftime):