There ain't no love in the heart of the city and Brooklyn got a cold welcome to Madison Square Garden tonight, dropping their second consecutive game to the Knicks in a span of eight days. This was a win the Knicks had envisioned since the first two games had been played at Barclays Center.
"That we're New York's team," exclaimed Raymond Felton when asked by a reporter what the statement the Knicks were trying to make tonight was. He added that he was kidding, but behind the comedic veneer was a semblance of truth. The Knicks not only wanted to win this game, they had absolute domination on their mind for dropping the first game of this budding rivalry back on November 26.
Back in late November when the Battle of the Boroughs began, the Brooklyn Nets win over their cross-town rivals was big enough for Jay Z to label the city "under new management." Now, 25-games into the 2012-13 NBA season there is no longer any doubt as to whom the city of New York belongs to: the city is still under the orange-and-blue regime of the Knicks. Tonight's third meeting of the two teams was crucial to the Knicks from the outset – even though they did not admit it pre-game.
New York were missing veteran floor general Jason Kidd in the opening encounter, while the Nets had Brook Lopez absent in the second game in Brooklyn (which the Knicks won), but tonight, as soon as Carmelo Anthony was announced a certain starter, the majority of the Knicks key cogs were available and ready to put their foot on the throat of a struggling Brooklyn side.
None more-so than team leader Anthony who was returning after missing the past two-games with an ankle sprain. Anthony finished with 31-points (12-22 field goals) and after the game revealed that this game was high priority for the Knicks.
"At the end of the day, these are statement games, these are big games, divisional games," Anthony said. "They're right across the bridge, so these games definitely mean a lot."
Anthony was spectacular from the outset, but he had help from his teammates, the common theme amongst the playing group: let's make this a statement win. Tyson Chandler, the team's defensive anchor (16-points, 12 rebounds) also made it a point to let the Nets know who's town this was after two close games between the two.
"I just wanted to close the game. I wanted to make a statement," Chandler said. "Tonight was a big game for us, a game in our division, an opportunity to gain a full game as far as the lead goes, and we have to make statements like that."
The Knicks now lead the season series 2-1, with one game left to play, but it could very easily be a sweep if it wasn't for that overtime loss in the first match-up. J.R. Smith said the team wanted to come out and exact revenge for that by winning comfortably tonight.
"We feel like they got lucky with us [in that first game]," said Smith. "We just wanted to separate ourselves from them."
The gap between the two teams is rapidly growing bigger. Brooklyn have some soul searching to do – and possibly consider making some moves. The Knicks (8-2 in ther last 10-games) now look ahead to Friday night's game against the Chicago Bulls, another chance to assert their Eastern Conference dominance, and separate themselves further from the pack.