Barclays Center, Brooklyn- A rivalry once extinguished due to myopic ineptitude and the sullen forces of time has suddenly, and excitingly reappeared upon the New York basketball scene.
The latest star in the ongoing battle for the heart of the denizens of the Big Apple was none other than the prodigal son, as Brooklyn native Carmelo Anthony showered a season-high 45 points in a stirring, 100-97 come- from-behind victory for the New York Knicks over the Brooklyn Nets.
“Games like this, these are the games we want to win. Great teams win games like these,” said Anthony on how big the win was for New York.
Anthony, who shot 15-of-24 from the field, including five 3-pointers provided the offense after a dismal first quarter start for the Knicks in which New York trailed by as many as 17 points, down 26-9 with just under two minutes remaining in the opening quarter.
With the game knotted at 97-97, New York point guard Jason Kidd launched a three-pointer with 24.1 seconds left and nailed it to put the Knickerbockers ahead 100-97. A foul was called on the Nets’ Jerry Stackhouse, but Kidd missed the free-throw, enabling Brooklyn a chance to send the contest into overtime.
On their final possession, the Nets’ Gerald Wallace misfired on a 25 foot three-pointer, followed by another missed three-ball by Brooklyn starting point guard Deron Williams from the top of the key.
As the final buzzer sounded, Kidd [18 points, six assists, six rebounds] did his best Tiger Woods fist pump imitation as the Knicks evened the season series at 1-1, splitting the first two games at the Barclays center, with two more at Madison Square Garden yet to come.
“When they double Melo, we practice that someone will be open and Ray [Felton] made a great pass,” said Kidd on his game-winning three.
Playing starter minutes, J.R. Smith provided the Knicks rally with 16 points and four rebounds.
For an often maligned leader, Tuesday night’s win over the Nets was yet another opportunity for Anthony to show that at least so far into the early season, that he could be the deciding factor, the reason why the Knicks win games.
Only 21 games into the season, and with a record of 16-5, some feel that Anthony may not just be his team’s MVP, but that of the NBA itself.
“He’s playing at an unbelievable level, an MVP level,” said Knicks’ center Tyson Chandler [five points, seven rebounds], a refrain that he has been repeating after almost every Knicks win.
Others such as Williams [18 points, 10 assists] simply wish he didn’t have to play against him saying, “I hate him, ” while trying in vain to suppress a grin.
The Nets, now on a five-game skid have little to smile about. Without center Brook Lopez, Brooklyn still dominated New York in the paint by a margin of 48-20 and still lost the game that they led by 17 in the first quarter, 10 in the third and seven points in the fourth. A game in which they shot nearly 60-percent from the field, and one in which they attempted 10 more free-throws than the Knicks.
There was also the three-point shooting. The Knicks had it. Brooklyn did not.
“The main thing is we didn’t do a good job guarding the three-point line,” explained Nets’ head coach Avery Johnson. “Every time we had control of the game they would make a three. It is uncharacteristic of us.”
“It is,” responded Anthony when asked about the validity of calling the series a rivalry, adding, “After that first game, we might as well accept that it is a rivalry, and it is great for New York.
Great, at least when you win.