Playoff games in the month of December. That is what a really good NBA rivalry is about, and now that the Nets are a competitive team again, playing in Brooklyn nonetheless, every game between them and the New York Knicks is a chance for some animosity, some great basketball and for Carmelo Anthony to show what kind of a season he’s having.
On his second visit to the Barclays center in Brooklyn this season, Anthony kept playing like the MVP, or someone who’s going to end up as one when this season is over. He scored a season high 45 points, shooting 15-24 from the field and 5-7 from beyond the arc. He’s averaging 40 points and shooting over 53 percent at the Barclays Center this season, as the Knicks avenged their loss from the first New York derby of the season.
That loss to Brooklyn seems to have re-ignited the Knicks push towards a very surprising season. They’ve gone 7-1 since that loss, that loss coming with Anthony not playing against the Chicago Bulls. The Nets, who were tied with the Knicks at the top of the division after that win in late November, have won only two games of seven since. The Knicks now have a firm lead in the division with a 16-5 record, including a perfect 8-0 at home.
The Knicks enjoyed not having to face Brook Lopez or any kind of center, with Andray Blatche and Reggie Evans acting as the Big men for the Nets. There was no spreading the ball like on most games for the Knicks – Just Carmelo Anthony with a huge game, one of the best individual performances by anyone this season, Jason Kidd with a surprising day from beyond the arc (18 points, 6-8 from three) and J.R. Smith being the sole contribution from the bench, scoring 16 points.
It’s funny how Jason Kidd’s career, which looked over after a horrific last season with the Dallas Mavericks, has taken a turn for the best since his return from Texas. He doesn’t try to do what he can’t, and the Knicks’ system, spreading the floor so well thanks to him, creates so many open shots for the veteran point guard, averaging 9.1 points per game and nearly 50% from the field.
It is what it is. They’re on our division, we see them four times a year. It is a rivalry. It’s great for New York to have that in Brooklyn and in Manhattan. When we come here it’s a battle. When they come there, it’s going to be a battle. We expect that.
The Nets, at the moment, are hurting. They’ve lost five in a row, all of them without Brook Lopez. But don’t let anyone tell you there’s no real rivalry. In a full lineup, they’re quite the match for the Knicks, who continue to surprise with their defense and ability to stroke the deep ball. It didn’t really include too many players, but the Knicks still shot 50% from beyond the arc, while the Nets were only 4-18 from beyond the arc.
Jason Kidd, believe it or not, was the man who won the game. Raymond Felton was struggling, but the two-PG system is working well on both ends of the floor. Once in a while, even one of the oldest players in the NBA has a chance to shine and grab the headlines, like he used to do so many times before.