NBA: Brooklyn Nets-New York Knicks has the makings of a great rivalry

Joe Johnson scored 28 points and the Brooklyn Nets came from behind Monday afternoon to beat the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, 88-85.

The win gave Brooklyn a split in their first season series with the Knicks since moving from New Jersey to Brooklyn over the summer.

These two teams have always been in close proximity to one another, but it’s never really been a rivalry, at least not until now.

This is the first time since 1977 that the Knicks and Nets have met as tenants of the same city. In 1976-77, the New York Nets played at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island in their first season in the NBA after being part of the merger between the established NBA and the upstart American Basketball Association.

But the Nets fled Uniondale, N.Y., the following season, rechristened themselves as the New Jersey Nets and played in at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J., for four seasons. Then they moved into the brand-new Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, N.J., in time for the 1981-82 season. After the 2009-10 season, the Nets moved to the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., for their final two seasons before making their long-anticipated move back across the Hudson River to New York.

The rivalry that wasn’t didn’t get off to a great start in 1976. The Nets paid $3 million to join the NBA as part of the merger agreement.

But unlike the Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers—the other three ABA franchises admitted to the NBA in 1976—the Nets owed an additional $4.8 million to the Knicks for moving into the established franchise’s territory.

The Nets were the last champions of the ABA, beating the Nuggets in 1976 and had also won the ABA title in 1974, Julius Erving’s first season with the team.

At the same time, Nets owner Roy Boe was trying to get the franchise’s—heck, the ABA’s—biggest attraction, Erving, to restructure his contract. Erving wouldn’t budge and was eventually sold to the Philadelphia 76ers during the preseason for $3 million. Newly acquired Tiny Archibald played just 34 games before injuring his foot and missing the rest of the season. What was left on Long Island was a 22-60 mess.

It’s not as if the Knicks were any better. New York went 40-42 and neither Gotham entry made the playoffs.

The teams split their four meetings that season, as well. Interestingly enough, each team went 0-2 at home. The Nets won 104-103 at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 30, 1976, and posted an 86-85 win at the Garden on Feb. 19, 1977. The Knicks responded with 105-95 and 100-80 wins at Nassau on Dec. 8, 1976, and Feb. 20, 1977, respectively.

While the Nets were bouncing around various gyms in New Jersey, the Knicks held a slight edge in the series between the Atlantic Division rivals, winning 83 of the teams’ 163 regular-season meetings between 1977-78 and 2011-12.

The teams have only collided in the postseason three times.

The first time was in the 1983 playoffs. The Nets had gone 47-29 through 76 games under second-year coach Larry Brown. But with just a couple of weeks left in the season, Brown bolted New Jersey to take the job at the University of Kansas.

Interim coach Bill Blair guided the team to a stumbling 2-4 finish and the underdog Knicks bounced the Nets in two games to sweep their first-round series. The Knicks won 118-107 in Game 1 before returning to Manhattan to finish the series with a 105-99 victory. Bernard King scored 58 points in the series for New York, including a 40-point outburst in the opener.

It would be 11 years before teams would renew acquaintances in the postseason. The Knicks were at the height of the Patrick Ewing era in 1993-94, winning 57 games and earning the No. 2 seed in the playoffs after winning the Atlantic Division title. The Nets were 45-37 and just happy to be there.

After losing the first two games at the Garden, the Nets salvaged a Game 3 win at home, 93-92, before the Knicks put them away in Game 4 in Jersey, 102-92, to win the series 3-1.

The tables were turned the last time the Knicks and Nets played in the playoffs. In 2003-04, the Nets were the two-time defending Eastern Conference champions behind Jason Kidd. After a slow start, the Nets fired coach Byron Scott and former assistant Lawrence Frank. To say New Jersey responded to the change would be an exercise in understatement—the Nets won their first 13 games after the coaching change and rallied to win the Atlantic.

The Knicks, meanwhile, were 39-43 and sneaked into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed.  Predictably, the Knicks were summarily swept out of the first round, losing by 24 and 18 points at New Jersey before the Nets came across the river and won a pair of closer contests—81-78 and 100-94—to close out the series in Manhattan.

The teams were supposed to open the season at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Nov. 1. But the game was postponed after Hurricane Sandy devastated the New York area. When the teams finally met for the first time on Nov. 26, the Nets pulled out a 96-89 overtime win behind 22 points and 11 rebounds from Brook Lopez. Deron Williams added 16 points and 14 assists for Brooklyn to counter the 63 combined points from Carmelo Anthony (35) and Tyson Chandler (28).

On Dec. 11, the teams met again in Brooklyn. This time, Anthony went off for 45 points and the Knicks pulled out a 100-97 victory. Andray Blatche led the Nets with 23 points while Williams had 18 points and 10 assists.

New York had no trouble when the teams met at Madison Square Garden for the first time since the Nets’ move back to the city. Anthony scored 31 points and J.R. Smith had 19 off the bench as the Knicks rolled to a 100-86 win on Dec. 19. Johnson had 17 points for the Nets, who also got 16 points and 10 dimes from Williams and a double-double from Lopez (16 points, 10 rebounds).

Johnson was the star Monday afternoon, hitting 5-of-8 from the land of 3. Williams (14 points, 12 assists) and Lopez (14 points, 11 rebounds) had double-doubles for Brooklyn, which also got 11 points and 13 boards off the bench from Kris Humphries.

Anthony scored 29 points for the Knicks but missed all six of his shots in the fourth quarter.

Humphries took to Twitter after the game with this:

Big game tonight! The Garden got really quiet on the way out! #Brooklyn

Smith responded with a personal jab at the Nets’ power forward:

Wasnt quiet when Kanye tore it down last month!

The Kanye West reference was undoubtedly a shot at Humphries over his short-lived marriage to Kim Kardashian, who is now with West.

So there’s some bad blood beginning to boil between the teams. Unfortunately, though, unless they meet in the playoffs, the teams will have to wait until next season to renew the newly established Battle of New York.

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Topics: Aba-nba Merger, Brooklyn Nets, Julius Erving, Madison Square Garden, NBA, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks, New York Nets

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