This rivalry has been juiced to its very core, so much that the manufactured push hardly registers a blip anymore. The Knicks are a conference bottom-feeder, the Nets struggling to stay in the least inspiring playoff race in memory.
But the two still found a way to put together a competitive, back-and-forth, and even occasionally entertaining game. Sure, it was mostly a fight of which team would suffer the most lapses on both ends, with the Nets’ heavy reliance on the mid-range facing off against a Knicks triangle that had all the spacing of the N train at rush hour.
But the Nets made enough shots down the stretch — punctuated by an easy, open floater for Brook Lopez and a wide-open three-pointer for Jarrett Jack created by Joe Johnson — to win the borough battle.
Now, the Nets are on the road until March, which means with a 2-0 record, they follow up an entire January without a home victory by going undefeated at home in February.
New theory: Jarrett Jack is a warlock.
He & Joe Johnson switched off on defending Carmelo Anthony, mostly with success. Anthony is as hard to stay in front of as anyone in the NBA, and when he got a step on Anderson, there just wasn’t much he could do.
But those moments were few and far between Anderson did his job: stay out of the way on offense, try to get in the way on defense, force Anthony into taking bad shots with a hand in his face.
Between he & Bogdanovic, the Nets have slowly started to put together some semblance of production from the shooting guard spot.
On the biggest play of the game, with everyone expecting him to go Iso-Joe, Johnson made a picture-perfect pass to a wide-open Jarrett Jack, who buried the three-pointer to put the Nets up four with 13.8 seconds left.
Throughout, a great back-and-forth battle between Johnson and Carmelo Anthony: Johnson refused to be bullied by ‘Melo’s bruising dribble-drives, and Johnson tried to create space on Anthony by forcing him to contest his outside shots.
Also a double-double for Johnson, for some reason.
Shortly before tipoff, Lionel Hollins made an impassioned, unprompted case for Kevin Garnett as an All-Star. That needs to be couched in context — Hollins wants the NBA to recognize the service Garnett has put in as a long-time employee of the NBA, rather than honor him for his on-court production.
But Garnett, at the very least, played like a productive NBA player for most of the game, hitting his patented mid-range jumper often in the first half and causing disruption with quick-handed defense.
Not Plumlee’s best night: struggled to get the ball even above his shoulders inside when making moves and didn’t make a significant impact on defense or on the glass.
Still looks alive, if recovering. The crossover is there, if the jump shot isn’t. The attack is there, if the finish isn’t. The willingness to draw contact is there, if the free throws aren’t. It’s become something on, something off, with Williams, rarely a complete effort anymore.
Brook Lopez Center
Big impact on both ends of the floor, racking up blocks inside on driving wings and bigs and getting position in the paint for buckets. The few shots the Knicks hit against his defense were just tough shots. Not a pristine effort, particularly with some bad fouls late, but as good as you can expect from him on that end.
Much of Lopez’s damage came in the paint: Lopez can step out and hit jumpers, but it should not be a focal point of his game, and his success inside with Plumlee — an interior-focused offensive player — out of the game spoke volumes towards why the tandem has struggled together this season.