The crosstown battle of Brooklyn and New York pro franchises was rekindled on Monday night, as the Nets pulled out a 96-89 overtime victory over the New York Knicks at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It was the first time since the Dodgers played the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds in 1957 that a team from BK squared off against a team from Manhattan. The much-hyped, highly publicized and highly anticipated matchup didn’t disappoint.
With New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NBA commissioner David Stern in attendance, amongst New York’s celebrity row, the Nets’ new home was loud, energetic and had the feel of a first or second-round playoff atmosphere throughout– thanks in part to the sellout crowd, that was mostly a sea of monochromatic black that drowned out the blue-and-orange visitors with booming chants of “Brooooook-lyn,” After the grueling 52-minute contest had come to an end, the Knicks not only had to concede their first place in the standings, but also their role as “big brother” of Gotham. Many view the once-beleaguered franchise’s victory as a changing of the guard in the gentrified town. But, the true revelation of Brooklyn’s victory over New York is that all signs point to this being the start of a true interborough rivalry, with three more competitive matchups ahead and the specter of a high-drama playoff series in scope for the foreseeable future.
“No question this will be a fun game every time out,” Brook Lopez admitted to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, after finishing with 22 points, 11 rebounds in five blocks. “ 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 have always been the clear No. 1 franchise in the area. Even when Jason Kidd led the New Jersey Nets to back-to-back Finals appearances in the early aughts– New York still reigned supreme. But after years of playing in the shadows of the tenants from Madison Square Garden, after Monday, the Nets are no longer the Metropolitan area’s “JV team,” as the Knicks’ shooting guard J.R. Smith told auto loan guidelines. In spoiling the Knicks’ superstar Carmelo Anthony’s “homecoming” of sorts (Melo was born in the Red Hook section of BK) the Nets finally shed their incompetent existence from Jersey’s marshland and brushed off any and all skepticism directed their way. The Nets have beaten the Knicks many times before, but this victory will forever be remembered as the night BK leveled the playing field in NY. The Knicks will have to come to the realization that they need to contend with a budding rival from Kings County.
“This is what they talked about, this is what they visualized,” Deron Williams told the NY Daily News, after scoring 16 points while dishing out 14 assists. “It was a good win for us. But we still have to play [the Knicks] three more times, maybe also in the playoffs…so we didn’t win the championship of New York. We won a game.”
With both teams boasting a 9-4 record, the win pushed the Nets ahead of the Knicks in the standings –momentarily giving them bragging rights in city– for rightful first place in the Atlantic Division. After all these years, all the anticipation, New York finally understands that playing the Nets in Brooklyn is now an official road game for them and Barclays Center is “officially” hostile territory.
The teams meet three times in the next three-and-a-half-weeks. The first chapter of the Empire State’s newest rivalry will resume on December 11, when New York returns to Brooklyn to try and avenge its game one loss. The New York Knicks will later play host on December 19, when the Brooklyn Nets travel to Manhattan for the first time to face them at MSG.