It's the Battle of the Boroughs: Brooklyn Nets vs. New York Knicks

Al Bello

New York's two teams finally go head-to-head.

Now, it's all about the Knicks. D-Will vs. Melo, Prokhorov vs. Dolan, Jay-Z vs. Spike Lee, Brooklyn vs. Manhattan. And oh yeah, "Brook-Lyn" vs. "Go, New York, Go." Live on TNT. Marv Albert behind the mic. After the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy delayed the two teams from crashing into each other on Opening Night, this is only a little less dramatic. And even the delay has produced a benefit: the two teams are off to great starts, the Knicks 9-3, the Nets 8-4.

For the Nets, of course, the game and the hype surrounding it is bigger. It's their arrival on the New York stage. The first 12 games were like out-of-town previews before opening night on Broadway, where kinks get worked out, sets and lines changed, actors given bigger or smaller roles. As for the Knicks, it's about wanting to retain dominance in the market, dominance based more on geography (and entitlement) than by accomplishment ... at least over the past 40 years.

The Nets will be hosting the game at their new home, the billion dollar arena. A sellout crowd isn't just expected. It's guaranteed. How the crowd breaks down between Nets fans and Knicks remains just one of the big questions.

For the most part, players and coaches have tried to lower expectations ... but not all of them. At the end of the Blazers game, Reggie Evans talked about being interested more in a championship than bragging rights. Carmelo Anthony has been only a little less low-key, saying “If we don’t get up for this game, then I don’t know what games we’ll get up for."

Avery Johnson admitted it is a big deal, but kept it real. "This is a game a lot of people have waited for. We're excited about it. We're at home. I know our guys are going to be jacked up and ready to play,but we have to be ourselves. play the style we like to play, the certain tempo we like to play at."

One player was not so reticent on the subject. Joe Johnson said after being traded to the Nets that he believed Brooklyn had the better team. He's not backing down. He reiterated that opinion Sunday night. "Yeah. It's just what I feel," Johnson told ESPN New York. "I'm not gonna expand on it, but that's just the way I feel."

What to expect ... other the dramatics and pyrotechnics of hype? The Nets have won four straight at home and are playing better, even good, defense. They've won two straight in a 72-hours span, a solid win over the Clippers and a raggedy one over the Blazers. The Knicks, on the other hand, have seen their vaunted defense fail them this week. Over the last three games, opponents have averaged 115 points against what had been the NBA's top defense. In the last three games, they've lost to the Mavericks and Rockets and beaten the Pistons. Bottom line: No one is expecting anything less than a classic.

So, may the better team win. (That would be the one whose fans don't have a sense of entitlement.)

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