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For a league with serious marketing chops, the NBA missed a big opportunity with their schedule this year.
When the Knicks and Nets tip off at the Garden in the annual Martin Luther King Day matinee on Monday afternoon, it will be the final time the two teams are scheduled to play one another this season. Given how much extra intensity there's been for the first three meetings between the teams, it feels like a huge miss that there won't be any games in the final weeks of the season when teams are fighting for playoff position.
At least the last meeting of the year comes at an interesting time for both teams. The Nets are coming off a split with the Hawks to start a stretch of games against some of the best teams in the league, a good test for a team that's righted the ship after the rough patch that cost Avery Johnson his job.
Deron Williams is coming off one of his best games of the year in Friday night's victory over the Hawks and his recent play has provided some reassurance that the team made the right move in building around him. Brook Lopez's play has done the same, although we're not sure that even his All-Star performance would have kept the Nets from feeling they missed out on something if Dwight Howard and the Lakers didn't stink thus far.
The Knicks, on the other hand, have only played one game in the last week because of their trip to London to face the Pistons so they've been able to rest some aching bodies after their blistering start bogged down in the last few weeks. That London game also featured the return of Iman Shumpert and the best game yet from Amar'e Stoudemire, two developments that should add to the enviable depth that the Knicks have enjoyed this season.
Still, we'd like to see the games a bit more spread out over the course of the season. The NBA can't manufacture a rivalry out of thin air, but they can cultivate one to make sure that games between the Nets and Knicks take place at regular intervals over the course of a season.
Outside of a playoff series, nothing would ratchet this thing up faster than one of New York City's teams knocking the other one out of favorable playoff positioning with a big win late in the second half. There's no better way to play off the Carmelo Anthony narrative than by having him with the ball in his hands in the final seconds of a huge game against the team from the other borough.
That won't be the case on Monday since the Knicks won't even be halfway through the season when the game comes to an end. It will still be intense and it's definitely meaningful with just two games separating the teams in the standings, but there's room for much more in the years to come.
For now, though, you'll have to catch them while you can.