You couldn't ask for much more than that from a first Knicks visit to Brooklyn.
Knicks fans would prefer a win, obviously, and Jason Kidd would have preferred to be on the court, but, generally, it's tough to get much more from a regular season basketball game than we got from the Nets and Knicks on Monday night. The 96-89 overtime win for Brooklyn was a slog played in front of an energetic crowd that wanted to will these two teams into a rivalry.
It felt like one as bodies thudded into each other on the court. Tyson Chandler and Brook Lopez battled to an entertaining standstill, Gerald Wallace got the last laugh on Carmelo Anthony after getting humiliated for most of four quarters and the Jerry Stackhouse/Rasheed Wallace time machine somehow put the old Carolina teammates in the center of the best show in the NBA.
All of them were doing it in front of a crowd that felt split down the middle, giving the arena the feel of a high school game and making you wonder if it would be like a European soccer game come the playoffs. That made the Nets winners for deciding to move to Brooklyn long before the scoreboard said they were winners on the night.
The game went the Nets' way for a few reasons, including Kidd's absence strangling the ball movement out of the Knicks offense, but the biggest was Deron Williams piloting the Nets with verve while Ray Felton was shooting like John Starks in Game Seven. The Nets looked like they were willing to let Felton beat them and Felton wound up beating the Knicks.
Some nights end like this, some nights will end with Anthony hitting the final shot at the end of regulation. In the end, it feels better this way. This one meant a little more to the Nets, a little more to what they're trying to build.
If Anthony's shot found its way into the net at the end of regulation, the storyline would still be the Nets chasing the Knicks and then failing to put them away in the fourth quarter when they had the chance. Now, though, you can start to talk about a rivalry without stretching things quite as enormously and, based on the atmosphere at the arena on Monday night, that's really good for basketball in this city.
Just don't make it out to be anything more than the first spark in what will hopefully become a raging fire. Joe Johnson and others on the Nets side want to make it about who is the better team, but that simply wasn't on the table.
The downside wasn't great enough for it to matter that much. The Knicks are 9-5, same as the Nets, and no one ever got any prize for taking interborough bragging rights in November with three more games on the schedule between the two teams.
Yes, it's true that we don't actually know that interborough bragging rights and an NBA championship are unrelated. We're in uncharted waters right now, but it seems a pretty good bet that the 14th regular season game of the year means just as much when it is Knicks-Nets as when it is Nets-Bobcats.
It felt bigger than that, though, and that's the part that counts. You could see the future filled with playoff games and do or die moments in June, something that never seemed possible in the past even though playoff matchups and do or die moments actually took place between the two teams.
Most of all, you could feel an entire city hanging on every basket. The game's on and we're living in a better place because of it.