Nets 98, Knicks 93: BK avoids implosion

NEW YORK -- You’re right, Melo. Nets-Knicks definitely isn’t a rivalry right now. Not the way these two teams, with combined payrolls totaling $182.7 million, have been playing.

But someone had to win Tuesday night. And that team was the mediocre Brooklyn Nets, who prevailed past the lottery-bound New York Knicks, 98-93, at Madison Square Garden in what became an entertaining game down the stretch.

The Nets improved to 7-9, and are 7-2 against sub-.500 opponents. The Knicks dropped to 4-15, losing their fifth straight. This ties their worst start in team history.

Brooklyn, which led by as many as 16, held a 77-64 advantage entering the fourth quarter and nearly imploded.

Carmelo Anthony, who went 1-for-8 from the field in the final period, missed a 3-pointer with 8.9 seconds left that could’ve tied things at 96.

Players of the game: Joe Johnson, who had been struggling, went 0-for-4 in the first half but managed to finish with 22 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals. He was fantastic when it mattered. Brook Lopez, facing sub-par big men, had 23 points (19 in the first half), eight rebounds and three blocks.

Stat of the game: The Nets grabbed a season-high 21 offensive rebounds and outscored the Knicks 48-26 in the paint.

Play of the game: Lopez’s one-handed dunk over Amar'e Stoudemire in the first quarter.

Dive of the game: Mason Plumlee flying into the stands to try to save a loose ball.

What the heck? Nets super fan Jeffrey Gamblero was picked up by MSG security and escorted out of the building minus his prosthetic leg.

Up next: The Nets face the defending champion San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, the second night of a back-to-back at Barclays Center. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers visit the Knicks at MSG on Thursday.