Clash of the Boroughs Resounds in Brooklyn
Well sign me up for December 11.
After witnessing Round 1 of the "Clash of the Boroughs" – a 96-89 overtime victory for the Brooklyn Nets on their herringbone home floor – I think pretty much everyone involved is riled up and ready for the rematch. From Monday's opening tip, even though Knicks fans were definitely in the house, it was evident this was no longer the no-juice Nets-Knicks crowds of old.
As Avery Johnson put it: "Every time some sort of Knicks contingency started a cheer, our fans got louder. This is what we've been dreaming about since I've been here. It's a nice feeling, and I'm glad we rewarded our fans with a victory. They deserved it."
The Nets improved to 7-1 at Barclays Center, having reeled off six straight wins following a setback against the Timberwolves in the second game of the season. That it took an aberrational fourth-quarter collapse to off the Nets is a sign of just how far the team has come in the early parts of this season. Despite individuals struggling for various stretches, the team has shown enough versatility, particularly with a healthy Gerald Wallace, to compete and even win games in which more than one of their major players is off.
Against the Knicks on Monday, prime offseason acquisition Joe Johnson shot 3-of-12, tallying only eight points. And even Deron Williams, who racked up 16 points and 14 assists, connected on just 6-of-17 attempts. But Brook Lopez dumped 22 points on Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler, including eight in the fourth quarter. Lopez also turned away five Knicks shot attempts, twice swatting Carmelo Anthony at the rim in the final minutes of regulation. And bench players Reggie Evans (14 rebounds) and Jerry Stackhouse (14 points, 4-6 3Ps) turned in outstanding performances.
Most importantly for the team's future performance, they again tightened up defensively after halftime. For a third consecutive game, the Nets limited their opponent to fewer than 20 points in the fourth quarter (17 tonight) and 40 in the second half (37 tonight); they won the overtime, in which the Knicks shot just 2-of-7, 12-5. The defense has been bolstered by increased minutes for Evans, who has locked up his position as the backup 4 and spot help from savvy veterans Stackhouse and Keith Bogans.
The Nets were working hard before and after Monday's game to isolate the events, to ensure their focus was on the larger picture and to avoid any complacency after actually having played out this anticipated event.
"It's one game," Williams said. "It was a good win for us, but we still have to play them three more times and then maybe in the playoffs. We can't just be excited like we won the championship. We didn't win the championship of New York."
Perhaps not. But it sure felt like it. At least for one day.