NEW YORK - If it were any other opponent, the sting of turning in the first clunker of 2014 would be a whole lot easier to shrug the shoulders and walk away.
But this was the Knicks, the franchise that has been the premier one in this town until last season, when the Nets moved to into the basketball cathedral in Brooklyn known as Barclays Center and raised the bar.
The Nets are done being second-class citizens.
“We want to win,” Joe Johnson said Tuesday night after the Nets beat the Houston Rockets to clinch a playoff spot. “Let’s make no mistake about it. We’re going to do whatever we can to go in their building and walk out with a win. That’s just the way it is.”
Instead the Nets walked out of the Garden Wednesday night after laying an egg. The Knicks used a 15-0 run that started late in the first quarter and lasted until the second to take control and claim a 110-81 win.
For the first time since Jan.1, the Nets played without the passion and purpose that fueled an astonishing 30-12 record in 2014. The trademarks of that historic run – forcing turnovers that led to points, and terrific defensive rotation – never made the trip across the Hudson River.
The Nets (40-34), who will seek to extend their franchise home win streak to 15 games Friday night when they host the Detroit Pistons, had their three-game win streak snapped and lost more ground to the Bulls and Raptors for a home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Knicks improved to 33-43 and kept alive their playoff hopes. The Nets get a chance to make amends for this performance – and split the season series - on April 15 when they host the Knicks at Barclays Center.