Sinner's Life

Sinner's Life

A Blog About our World

Brooklyn Nets gaining ground on NY Knicks in battle for Big Apple basketball supremacy

 


Who’s really the better team, the Knicks or the Nets? This particular debate had evaporated for much of December, as the Nets swooned and the Knicks stomped on everyone. But now the Knicks are struggling with injuries, the Nets have their act together and it seems the answer is no longer so clear.

You never know with these winning streaks, or with the Nets. Back in 1982-83, they reeled off a franchise-record 11 straight from Dec. 23 through Jan. 12. Their owner, Joe Taub, popped a beer bottle top in the locker room after a sellout victory over the Lakers in East Rutherford — victory No. 10 — and declared, “The Nets have arrived.”

They hadn’t arrived, not really. Larry Brown was about to depart for Kansas and Micheal Ray Richardson would implode. The Nets fell apart soon enough and lost to the Knicks, their perennial yardstick, in the first round of the playoffs.

Now the Nets own a more modest winning streak, six straight, the longest one going in the league. It’s hard to tell what that means, but it probably means a lot more after they whipped Indiana, a solid team, on Sunday in Brooklyn. The Knicks had dropped a game to the Pacers a few days earlier, albeit on the road and without Carmelo Anthony, which begs the same question that began the season:

Who’s really the better team, the Knicks or the Nets?

This particular debate had evaporated for much of December, as the Nets swooned and the Knicks stomped on everyone. But now the Knicks are struggling with injuries, the Nets have their act together and it seems the answer is no longer so clear.


The Knicks still have an edge in the standings, where their record is second-best in the East and sixth-best in the NBA.

The Nets are fourth in the East, ninth in the league, two games back. The Nets also have enjoyed a skewed, early schedule. After they host Toronto on Tuesday, they will have played 22 of their first 38 games at home.

But as the Knicks head for the UK (the one European nation that hates basketball) for a game against the Pistons, there is reason to believe the Nets may be the stronger team down the stretch if they can overcome a far more difficult schedule. And beating out the Knicks, no matter what they say in Brooklyn, is the most important, achievable aim of this particular season.

There is no doubt the Nets have the stronger backcourt. There never was. Now, however, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson are actually playing up to their clippings. The Knicks’ substantial edge in the frontcourt with Anthony and Tyson Chandler has been somewhat reduced by the rejuvenated play of Brook Lopez.

Age is taking its toll on Eighth Avenue. Meanwhile, all the winning in Brooklyn has put on extended hold reports about replacing P.J. Carlesimo or trading for Dwight Howard. The Nets took the day off on Monday and were understandably basking in their own success against the Pacers.

“The last time we’d won five in a row we then went 3-13, so this was a big game for us — given who it was, an Indiana team that’s been playing really good basketball,” Williams said. “You know they’re going to be in the playoffs. We needed this game. This was a good test for us, a good challenge against a good team. I’m glad we came ready and stepped up our game in the fourth quarter.”

As for the Knicks-Nets rivalry, the NBA has done these teams no good service with its lopsided schedule. They will meet for a fourth time this season at the Garden on Monday afternoon, Martin Luther King Day, after the Knicks return from London. Then they won’t play each other again this year, unless they meet in the playoffs.

That series could become 1983 all over again, a swift, convincing Knick victory over a Net team that had peaked in January. Or something very different.

“We have a confidence about ourselves,” Kris Humphries said. “It’s obviously nice to win games and get on a streak, but we’ve always known what we’re capable of.”

The good and the bad.

 

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