The Rivalry — a k a, the Battle of the Boroughs — is off and running, a little late because of Hurricane Sandy.
Originally set for Nov. 1 in the new Barclays Center, the rescheduled game between the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets had plenty of panache, with politicos and football players and stars in the stands. But it had something else, something even better to go with the swagger: two winning teams. And something the New York Times’ Alan Feuer wrote was “local tribal warfare,” a sense of New Yorkers getting back to normal over a brand-spankin’ new rivalry.
… New York Knicks fans crossed into enemy terrain on N and Q trains arriving about 6 p.m. from Manhattan, their blue-and-orange regalia standing out in the surrounding sea of black. Confronting them from Nos. 2 and 3 trains streaming out of Prospect Heights and Brownsville were their counterparts from across Kings County — an equally impassioned, if recently converted, crowd that came in force to support the Brooklyn Nets, who won 96-89.
While the geography of loyalty was sometimes imprecise, this was basketball in the newly divided city, which is to say it was basketball as local tribal warfare.
The Nets and Knicks battled into overtime in the first NBA game between two New York City teams. From the New York Times’ Howard Beck:
Momentum swung wildly all night, every big play accompanied by a strange blend of competing chants and cheers from a divided crowd. But as the final minutes ticked down, the Nets found their footing and their fans got the final word, a prolonged and emphatic chant: “Broook-lynnn.”
It was only one game, as every Nets player quickly noted, but the atmosphere signaled a permanent change in New York’s basketball ecosystem. It was never like this in New Jersey.
“It’s just a total 180 from what we saw last year, where it was mostly Knicks fans and all the chants and all the cheers were for them,” Deron Williams said. “It’s great to feel that we have that home-court advantage finally.”
While there was quite a party going on, the game carried importance in the standings. Their sixth straight victory at home put the Nets into a tie with the Knicks atop the Atlantic Division at 9-4. The teams haven’t shared first place this late in the season, Beck notes, since Nov. 30, 1997. The Nets also have not held a stake in first place with at least 13 games played since Nov. 26, 2006. Which also happens to be the last season the Nets made the playoffs. That was enough to prompt a little smack talk from Nets minority owner Jay-Z, who tweeted after the game: “The city is under new management.”
Nets Coach Avery Johnson was a little more composed about a team that’s rapidly guaranteeing that no one slips and calls ’em the New Jersey Nets ever again. “There are no parades,” Johnson said. “There are no trophies right now. It’s still early. But at the same time, this is a step in the right direction.”
When was the last time anyone saw anything like this in New York? The Subway World Series? From ESPN New York’s Ian O’Connor:
How many Brooklyn fans were actually sitting and standing and stomping inside this alien mothership of an arena Monday night? Nobody could break down the crowd of 17,732 with any degree of certainty, but given the way booing Nets fans drowned out the M-V-P chants for Melo [Anthony], a fair estimate would be 10,000 for the good guys, 7,732 for the bad.
“Every time some sort of Knick contingency started to cheer,” Johnson would say, “our fans got loud. And this is what we’ve been dreaming about since I have been here.”
The Nets won this one by putting up a defensive stand in overtime. Williams had 16 points and 14 assists (equaling the Knicks’ team total). Brook Lopez had 22 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots. Gerald Wallace scored 16 points and Jerry Stackhouse came off the bench to score 14. For the Knicks, Carmelo Anthony had 35 points, Tyson Chandler 28 with Jason Kidd sitting out the game. The takeaway? The Nets were scary good, O’Connor writes.
So the Knicks should be afraid of Brooklyn, very, very afraid. They shouldn’t worry so much about getting out of the East, not when there’s suddenly a real reason to believe they might not get out of New York.
This is getting good.