The Skinny: The offensive pace was fierce to start the game, with the Nets showing great ball movement and the Knicks knocking down three-pointers. Tyson Chandler picked up an early technical foul for taunting after dunking his own rebound over Reggie Evans. Joe Johnson hit his first three three-point attempts to add to his 11 points in the opening frame. Brooklyn led by five, but seven Nets’ turnovers in the first quarter allowed the Knicks to cut the deficit to two-points after one.
The Nets’ second unit opened the second quarter cold from the field until Kris Humphries provided a jolt of energy. He went on a 7-0 run by himself and pulled down seven rebounds during that stretch to help the Nets open a seven-point lead midway through the second quarter. Brooklyn increased its lead to 10 points as Brook Lopez looked great shooting in both the paint and from the field. Carmelo Anthony started slow, but he began heating up late in the half to help the Knicks get to within six at the break.
Melo kept up his hot shooting to start the third quarter, which helped the Nets close the gap to three. But back-to-back three-pointers from Deron Williams put the Nets back up seven just past the midway point of the third. The Knicks again mounted a comeback and took a three-point lead using a 10-0 run. New York led by three through three.
Brooklyn regained the lead to start the fourth on a crazy three-pointer by Keith Bogans that went in after hitting the top of the backboard. But J.R. Smith answered with a three to put the Knicks back in front. Two three-pointers from Johnson allowed the Nets to go back up six at the midway point of the fourth as part of an 11-2 run. The Knicks chipped away and trailed by just one with under a minute to play. Following a Johnson foul, Melo made a pair of free-throws to give the Knicks a one-point lead. But Johnson followed with a clutch leaner to again have the one-point lead change hands with 22.3 seconds remaining. At the other end, Melo missed a close-range jumper, and Lopez tipped the rebound to Bogans for possession. Williams knocked in two free-throws to give the Nets a three-point lead with 8.3 to go. P.J. Carlesimo opted to foul Jason Kidd rather than have the Knicks attempt a game-tying three. Kidd missed the first attempt and made the second, cutting the lead to two. Williams made 1-of-2 free throws, and Smith missed a wild three-point attempt at the other end as time expired.
High Scorers: Anthony led all scorers with 29 points on 11-of-29 from the field and added seven assists. For the Nets, Johnson led the way with 25 points on 8-of-20 shooting including making five three-pointers.
Key Stats: The Nets won the rebounding battle 52-27, held the advantage in assists at 23-14 and made six more three pointers than the Knicks. But a +14 turnover differential kept this game close the whole way.
Who Was Hot: Lopez finished with a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds and also had four blocks. Humphries also recorded a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Smith tallied 16 points for the Knicks, while Amar’e Stoudemire added 15 points off the bench.
Who Was Not: Williams finished with a double (14 points, 12 assists), but he shot just 3-of-10 from the field. Iman Shumpert was ice cold from the outside, shooting 1-of-6.
Fun Fact: Williams made 52 consecutive free-throws before missing one in the fourth quarter. Sam Cassell maintains his Nets’ record for now with 55 straight made free-throws in 1998.
That right there is the definition of a big win. The Nets hung on despite another poor third quarter (18 points on 6-of-20 shooting).
The turnovers certainly did not help, but the Nets’ defense was excellent in holding the high-scoring Knicks to just 85 points on their home floor.
The Nets actually didn’t score for about a five-minute period in the fourth quarter, but once again the team’s closer, Joe Smooth, made a clutch shot.
Johnson showed up in a big way after only averaging 13.7 points in the first three against the Knicks. Melo again had a big game against Brooklyn and is now averaging 35.0 points against the Nets this year. Melo has now scored at least 20 points in 26 straight games – the longest such streak of his career.
This game marked the official halfway point for the Nets, who now trail the Knicks by just one game in the Atlantic Division and have evened out the season series with their crosstown rivals.
The Nets are now 12-4 since being blown out at Madison Square Garden. The team is also 11-2 under Carlesimo.
So round four of the “Battle of the Boroughs” goes to the Nets, and this was actually the last times these two will meet in the regular season. That’s honestly quite disappointing, since they’ve played some great games so far.
Brooklyn (25-16) continues its four-game road trip as it travels to Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves in an attempt to avenge an earlier season loss. The 8 p.m. game will be televised on the YES Network.
Jim Mancari is a Contributor to SNYNets.com. Follow him on Twitter @JMMancari.