When the Knicks traveled to Brooklyn for the first time two weeks ago, the feeling of glee surrounding the game was something you don't see all that much during the NBA regular season.
There were two basketball teams in New York City on the same court doing battle in a game that actually mattered and it was exactly the kind of glorious event people hoped to see with the Nets moving to Brooklyn. The Nets won the game, but the night wound up being about much more than just the result on the scoreboard.
That's not likely to be the case on Tuesday night. There will still be singsong chants and an atmosphere rarely found in the first half of the regular season, but the result is going to matter a whole lot more this time.
For the Knicks, it's a chance to get a little bit of payback from the overtime loss in their first visit to Kings County. Carmelo Anthony, who has slayed so many dragons this season, couldn't get his shot to fall at the buzzer in regulation and then Gerald Wallace won their matchup in overtime to push the Nets to victory.
That's a shot at redemption for a guy whose whole week is pretty much about that topic and Raymond Felton also gets a chance to taste it after playing the first game like the aliens from Space Jam had removed all the basketball ability from his body. Jason Kidd doesn't need to be redeemed, but he missed the last game and a Knicks win on Tuesday makes it easy to point to his absence as the reason why the Nets were the better team last time.
On the other side, the win is pretty much the thing. The Nets have lost four straight games, three of them at home, and the giddiness of the 11-4 start has faded quickly as a result.
The losing streak has made one thing very clear about the Nets. After Deron Williams, Brook Lopez is the most important member of the team.
Probably not what they want to hear while paying Joe Johnson a mansion in Southampton every season to float around the perimeter and make no impact on games, but it is the truth. Lopez has missed five games with a sprained foot (yes, he's had foot problems in the past as well) and the impact on the Nets has been massive.
Teams score in the paint anytime they want, which proves that even mediocre defensive 7-footers make a difference on that side of the floor and the offense desperately needs the spacing he provides. Lopez practiced on Monday and he's a game-time decision on Tuesday.
We have no idea what's happening with his foot, obviously, but his presence in the lineup on Tuesday would be just as telling as Anthony's presence against old coach George Karl on Sunday at the Garden. Every game counts the same in the standings, but there are some you want to win just a little bit more than others.