Sunday brought a rare experience to New York City.
An early afternoon start in the Garden and an 8 p.m. tip at the Barclays Center meant that there was the chance to take in a pair of NBA games in two different arenas in the same city on the same day. It's not something that comes up often and held the promise of a kind of basketball nirvana for those lucky enough to have tickets to both and a working Metrocard.
It held that promise, but it turned into the exact opposite. After the Knicks laid their flaws on the table during a 102-88 loss to the Clippers, the Nets did the same while getting eviscerated by the Spurs 111-86 in the nightcap.
The beatings were even worse than the scores indicate. The Nets led a Spurs squad playing without Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili by 10 after one quarter and by six at halftime before getting run off the court in the second half as if they had gone on All-Star break five days early.
Tony Parker was the main culprit, carving up the Nets with speed and a deft shooting touch on his way to 29 points and 11 assists without turning the ball over a single time. The Spurs turned the ball over just five times overall, a sign of how little the Nets' defense was able to pressure them even without the other two of their three best players.
It was the continuation of a bad trend for the Nets, who have now lost six of their last nine and been pasted in five of those losses by teams that simply assert their will against a Brooklyn side that's showing very little backbone in the face of fierce resistance. In every one of those losses there's been a moment when the Nets need to push back if they're going to impose themselves on the outcome and not once has there been a player leading them in that effort.
The Knicks don't have that problem. Carmelo Anthony imposes himself in just about every game the Knicks play.
He did it on Friday, carrying the Knicks to a win in the fourth quarter after they stumbled around against the Timberwolves for most of the night. And Sunday saw him score 38 through three quarters to keep the Knicks within one point.
Anthony rested to start the fourth and the game was pretty much over by the time he returned. Chris Paul became the latest point guard to eat the Knicks defense alive and their defense adjusted to Melo's return by selling out to stop him at all costs.
Raymond Felton got a few buckets, but Anthony would score just four more and the rest of the Knicks offered nothing of value offensively while the team scored just 18 points in the final 12 minutes. Anthony and Felton combined for 62 of the team's 88 points, nowhere near the balance the Knicks need to show to be successful.
They don't necessarily need a 1A to Anthony offensively, but they do need to have a collection of players striking fear into the hearts of defenses if they are going to be successful. The Clippers were able to take that away on Sunday and it increasingly seems that teams are willing to take their chances on Anthony beating them if it means keeping the team's three-point shooters from overwhelming them off of open looks.
Not that it will matter if the Knicks don't start playing better defensively. All the points in the world won't help you when the paint is a safe travel zone for the opposition, something that has been the case a lot more often than not in 2013 and something that will sink the Knicks as surely as a torpedo will sink a ship.
We don't want to heap too much scorn on two teams that have proven themselves to be good basketball teams this season and given New York basketball a needed jolt back to life. Being something more than good takes a special mix, though, and Sunday's double dose of reality at the hands of Western Conference contenders showed there's still plenty of work to do on that front.