1. Imagine These Teams In A Playoff Series
NEW YORK -- On its own merit, the first-ever New York intra-borough meeting was as entertaining as regular-season basketball usually gets in the Eastern Conference.
It featured All-Stars dueling, career-highs, career-worsts, possession-by-possession drama, the tension of a last-second shot and, ultimately, overtime.
But the true revelation of the Brooklyn Nets' 96-89 victory over the New York Knicks on Monday night was that all signs point to this being the start of a true rivalry.
Not a marketing rivalry, though suits have been working on it for years now. Not a spatial or culture rivalry, the gentrifying town across the East River challenging the old guard in a battle-for-new-fans narrative that has been developing.
No, an honest basketball team vs. basketball team rivalry that promises at least four entertaining matchups and the specter of a playoff series that could prove epic.
The Nets (9-4) and Knicks (9-4), two teams fresh off successful makeovers that are zooming toward the top in the East, looked like fantastic foils for one another in their first meeting.
Playing in front of a crowd at Barclays Center -- a 20-minute subway ride from Madison Square Garden -- that featured dueling cheers and jeers, there was nothing phony or forced about this new matchup. There was strong evidence these teams could turn every meeting into a high-drama affair for the foreseeable future. With added spice of the games in Brooklyn potentially creating one of the league's unique atmospheres as the Nets' new fans actually give them what finally feels like a bit of a home-court advantage.
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Nets y Knicks jugaron un partido memorable, que terminó con la victoria de Brooklyn. Leer
"When I first got here it was 80 percent [Knicks fans] to 20 percent [Nets fans] at our home games," Nets coach Avery Johnson said. "We're trying to come in here and gain some territorial rights and they're going to try to do everything they can to push back."
There was no doubt the Knicks wanted to win. Coach Mike Woodson played Carmelo Anthony 50 minutes, Tyson Chandler 42 and both Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith more than 40 on the second night of a back-to-back. This was not just another game, and the way it played out, it seems doubtful it will be considered one for a while.
One of the reasons these two teams could prove so intriguing is how they match up with each other. Watching Gerald Wallace battle Anthony on defense was almost a game within a game. We saw Wallace fighting Anthony for position, trying to get physical with him as Anthony tried to push back with his well-known array of moves and tricks to create space.
Anthony scored 34 points and ended up with 13 rebounds, nine of them in the fourth quarter when he was chasing the ball like it was an elimination game. But Wallace helped force him to just 2-of-9 shooting in the final quarter and overtime, including a missed jumper with less than five seconds left in regulation. Wallace respond with a season-high 16 points as well.
There was also the Brook Lopez-Tyson Chandler affair that provided numerous highlights as the game unfolded. Chandler exploited Lopez regularly on the pick-and-roll game that is often a thorn for Lopez, who also got beat for numerous offensive rebounds. Chandler ended up with a career-high 28 points on 12-of-13 shooting.
At the other end, the Nets weren't afraid to isolate Lopez with Chandler, the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year. And while Chandler got the best of Lopez at the end of regulation by drawing a charge on a key possession, Lopez got the last laugh by scoring on Chandler in a pivotal possession on Chandler in overtime. When it was over, Lopez had 22 points and ended up beating Chandler in rebounds (11-10) and blocks (5-0).
"No question this will be a fun game every time out," Lopez said. "The proximity, the build up and the fans make it something. Having two great teams in New York, the fans are in the best position of all."
The Knicks no doubt missed Jason Kidd, who sat out with back spasms. The way the Nets attacked the Knicks' guards, especially looking to exploit size advantages on Raymond Felton, having Kidd and his ability to defend probably would've only increased the number of entertaining possessions.
Deron Williams, who had 16 points and 14 assists thanks to a series of high-difficulty passes under duress, was a bit lacking in an opposite number. Felton had a miserable game, shooting just 3-of-19 with as many turnovers (five) as assists.
There were graybeards Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse firing up 3-pointers -- Stackhouse won this round decisively, going 4-of-5 while Wallace went 2-of-6 -- and talking trash to each other from the bench.
Combined, it was enough to make the viewer want to look up when the next meeting will be. Which is on Dec. 11, back in Brooklyn on ESPN. If this truly was the start of what it looked like it could be, that might turn out to be appointment TV.
"This is what we've been dreaming about since I've been here," Johnson said. "It's a nice feeling and we rewarded ourselves with a victory."
Around The Association
Recap | Box score
Most valuable player: Am I allowed to give it to Jerry Stackhouse? Is that wrong of me? The 38-year-old forward whom the Nets signed sort of as a player-coach went 4-for-5 from behind the arc. But, it seemed that every one of those 3-pointers came at exactly the right moment. Stack played the entire overtime and all crunch-time minutes in the fourth, and his 3 to bring Brooklyn up 89-86 in OT was the game-clincher.
X factor: Brook Lopez/Deron Williams. Has to be both. Deron's 16-point/14-assist night and Lopez's 22-point/11-rebound performance were what kept the Nets in the game. D-Will put on a passing workshop against New York's D and Lopez's rebounding, a stat everyone seems so concerned about, was better than defensive powerhouse Tyson Chandler.
That was a hype liver-upper: The Nets' PR team called this game "The Clash of the Boroughs." After Hurricane Sandy canceled the initial opener, the New York teams faced off to a pretty evenly divided crowd and completely lived up to the high expectations of the rivalry's kick-off. The fans of both teams were loud and supportive and could have completely swayed the game either way. An excellent contest matched the excellent atmosphere at the beautiful Barclays Center.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Greivis Vasquez. Leading a team without Anthony Davis or Eric Gordon, Vasquez out-dueled Chris Paul on his way to 25 points, 10 assists and six rebounds. Most importantly, his team played tougher and came away with the win.
That was entertaining: The third quarter, in particular, set the tone for a shootout that was extremely fun to watch -- unless you are a Clippers fan. Caron Butler caught fire on the way to nine 3s and 33 points and the two teams carried over the some bad blood from last season's matchup in New Orleans.
Defining moment: The Clippers trailed, 76-70, with 38 seconds left in the third quarter. Then Matt Barnes got called for a flagrant foul for elbowing Jason Smith, followed by a technical for arguing it. It wound up as a 5-point swing from which the Clips would never recover.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Without Al Jefferson's smooth 26 points on 14 shots, there's no way Utah wins this game. On the other hand, Denver brutalized Jefferson in the paint and he only had five rebounds. But in a strange game, he was MVP anyway.
X factor: Neither team could defend the paint Monday. Jefferson's offense made every Denver big look incompetent, and Denver put up an absurd 66 points in the paint. The mutual disinterest in defending turned it into a game of chippy calls, rebounding and the less-tired legs.
That was a tale of two halves: In the first half, Denver shot 73 percent and Utah was lucky to be down by just 11. This was rendered irrelevant in a brutal third frame. Denver managed to miss as many field goals as it missed in the entire first half, lose Andre Iguodala to an ill-timed ejection and give the ENTIRE lead back. A rough finish to Denver's back to back.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Brandon Knight. The Pistons' second-year point guard had 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting, including 3-of-5 from 3-point territory. He scored early and late, and hit several big shots to halt Portland's comeback efforts.
LVP: Damian Lillard. In easily the worst performance of his short NBA career, Lillard shot an atrocious 4-for-17 from the field, and didn't hit his first shot until close to the end of the third quarter. Chalk this up to one of those "rookie games."
That Was a breakout: Each team got a big performance out of an under-the-radar rookie. Portland's Will Barton scored a career-high 12 points, also a team high for bench players this season. Detroit's Kyle Singler continued to impress, scoring 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting with 10 rebounds and 5 assists.
Recap | Box score
MVP: The Bucks' bench. Milwaukee's reserves outscored Chicago's second unit 56-10, and it was the bench that got the Bucks back into the game after trailing by 27 points.
Defining moment: It was clearly the Bucks' comeback. The Bucks started the fourth quarter on a 19-2 run, which was part of a 31-4 run spanning the third and fourth quarters.
That was an epic comeback or a major failure, depending on your view: Credit Milwaukee for not giving up, but the Bulls let a huge lead slip away, getting outscored 30-12 in the fourth quarter.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Zach Randolph turned in a highly efficient performance: 19 points on 8-for-11 shooting plus 8 rebounds. More importantly, he was the Grizzlies' security blanket on offense. Whenever Memphis was struggling, they dumped the ball in to Z-Bo for an easy bucket.
X factor: Marc Gasol's three assists don't do justice to the job he did distributing the ball from the high post. Randolph gets the MVP nod, but Gasol chipped in a nearly as impressive 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting and 6 boards.
That was physical: The post battle was riveting. Three of the NBA's premier big men -- Randolph, Gasol, and Anderson Varejao -- were at their very best, which meant lots of rebound scrums, points in the paint, and bodies on the floor.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Russell Westbrook. Westbrook, after a rocky start to the season, has quietly rediscovered his brilliance. He recorded 12 points (with two emphatic, rim-shaking dunks) and 11 assists in just 22 minutes.
That was a slaughter: The Thunder were merciless, and the Bobcats were helpless. The Bobcats had 24 points at half, and didn't break the 30-point threshold until late in the third quarter. The Thunder shot 51.3 percent for the game, while holding the Bobcats to 29.1 percent.
Defining moment: Hasheem Thabeet had a double-double. 'Nuff said.
3. Monday's Best
Jerry Stackhouse, Nets: Suiting up for his eighth NBA team, the 38-year-old Stack posted his top regular-season point total (14) since April 14, 2010. The coach-on-the-floor made 4 of 5 3-pointers against the unsuspecting Knicks.
4. Monday's Worst
Blake Griffin, Clippers: "UVO, play funk." Too much funk, apparently, because Griffin was in one, fouling out of the Clippers' loss to the Hornets. He finished 1-for-9 from the floor, pulling in six rebounds. Ain't it funky now?
5. NBA Video Channel
6. Tweet Of The Night
7. Quote Of The Night
"We kind of know that OKC is a test for us. We failed it miserably, but there are other, better days ahead."
-- Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap, whose team's 116-69 loss to the Thunder was the biggest thrashing in Bobcats franchise history. The Cats had 24 points at halftime.
8. Watching Winless Wiz
9. Stat Check
The Milwaukee Bucks outscored the Chicago Bulls in the fourth quarter 30-12 to win in Chicago by one point on Monday night. It was only the third win in Bucks history in which they trailed by 17 or more points going to the fourth quarter; the other times were at Atlanta in 1977 (after being down by 28 -- the largest end-of-third-quarter deficit overcome by any NBA team in the shot-clock era) and at Miami in 2000 (down by 20).
Richard Hamilton, now in his 14th NBA season, had a season-high 30 points for the Bulls on Monday. No other player has had a 30-point game for the Bulls in his 14th season or later in the NBA. (Honorable mention to George Gervin, who had nine 30-point games in 1985-86, his 14th professional season, including his four seasons in the ABA. That was Gervin's final NBA season and his only with Chicago.) Hamilton is only the third player to have a 30-point game for both Chicago and Detroit, joining Ben Gordon and Orlando Woolridge.
10. Dunk Of Night
Spurs Rule D.C.
MVP: With fellow Brazilian Nene Hilario out for Washington, Tiago Splitter messed around and almost got a triple-double. The Spurs' big man, who started the second half for DeJaun Blair, took it to Wizards Frenchman Kevin Seraphin to the tune of 15 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists in 23 minutes (with a plus-27 in plus/minus to boot).
X factor: Perhaps this is the first time Tim Duncan has ever been called an "X factor" -- gotta start somewhere. Timmy was smooth in blending the Wizards for 14 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks in just 23 minutes of action. Ahh, road trip rest. What a luxury.
That was a nice favor the Wizards did Gregg Popovich: The Spurs coach praised the winless Wizards before the game, saying, "People don't understand, nobody's been kicking their butt." Whoops, sorry coach, but your team kicked some butt with a 26-point victory the day after an overtime win in Toronto. Meanwhile, the Wizards had a light practice on Sunday.