As the Knicks headed into Brooklyn on Tuesday night, there were certainly plenty of things on the line.
Having fallen to the Nets last month, the Knicks undoubtedly let a division-rival take them down. But this rival wasn't quite like the Celtics or 76ers. In fact, it wasn't even similar to the Nets' squads that called New Jersey home in past years.
The Brooklyn Nets is a completely different animal, whether it be one that you conquer, or one that you allow to rip you apart instead. With the Nets now also calling the Big Apple home, bragging rights are at stake. Which team can truly be considered the king of New York City? Could the Knicks burst out the gates running and gunning quick enough to make the Barclays Center their house for the evening?
As the game began, the answer to that question appeared to be no. The Knicks allowed the Nets to begin running away as they soared on offense. What's more, Brooklyn also kept at bay the most successful alley-oop connection in the NBA, Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler. Unable to find any rhythm in the pick and roll, Felton struggles from the field (3 for 12) against the Nets continued, and Chandler remained quiet.
But slowly but surely, other members of the Knicks realized it was necessary for them to awake if the team had any chance at making a later comeback. After scoring 22 points in the first half alone, Carmelo Anthony made sure to carry that same momentum with him into the game's final two quarters.
Tying James Harden's NBA-wide season-high of 45 points, Anthony dominated on offense, completely toying with the Nets' defense all game long. Brooklyn may have known how to contain Felton and Chandler, but it was Anthony who simply could not be stopped. Successful in all aspects of scoring the basketball, the forward hit 15 of his 24 shots, knocking down 5 bombs from deep in the process. What's more, he also drove to the basket and attacked defenders inside. Getting to the line effectively, Anthony shot 11 free throws, sinking 10 of them.
Luckily for the Red Hook native, he didn't necessarily need to carry his team all the way to victory (as remarkable as he was). Anthony received help from two of his teammates that have been keys to the Knicks' success all season long.
And of course, Tuesday night was certainly no different.
J.R. Smith got his offensive groove back, making a couple of clutch shots in the third quarter. Such a boost allowed the Knicks to not only close in on the Nets, but also move forth to take a commanding lead. The swingman finished with 16 points on 7 for 15 from the field, which happened to also be one of his most positive performances in well over a week.
Anthony was dominant. Smith was clutch. But as fate would have it, it was none other than former Nets point guard Jason Kidd who emerged as the hero for his new squad.
Playing in Brooklyn for the first time after missing the initial contest between the two teams, Kidd clearly strolled into town with an objective or two. His strong and steady play throughout the game elicited some roaring chants for the Knicks fans on both sides of the floor, even in their opponent's building.
Kidd filled up the stat-sheet, grabbing 6 boards and dishing out 6 assists. While he also happened to knock down six daggers from deep, none were bigger than the one long bomb that ended up sinking the Nets.
Getting fouled on the Knicks' last offensive possession of the game, Kidd hit a three-point field goal that put his team up 100-97. New York never looked back.
Such a play was as heroic of a play as the NBA has seen all season long. With ice in his veins, Kidd showed no fear. A future Hall of Fame veteran and past NBA champion, the floor general simply lives for moments like that. With the pressure on, Kidd proved he was completely and utterly fearless. Not to mention, he was also merciless in the way he sunk the hopes of his former squad.
The newly revitalized Knicks/Nets rivalry is unquestionably heating up, and we've only reached the second month of the still young season. With things surely to get more and more interesting with each further contest, Knickerbocker fans can be thrilled (and relieved, to say the least) that Kidd is donning orange and blue this time around.