In the first regular season meeting between two teams who look to be on the verge of becoming longtime rivals, the Brooklyn Nets defeated the New York Knicks 96-89 in overtime.
This was a see-saw battle with both teams looking to be in control at certain times. Let's go over the keys to victory for the Nets tonight.
1. Reggie Evans
Reggie Evans was an animal tonight. In 18 minutes, he pulled down 14 rebounds and created many second chance opportunities for Brooklyn. There is no way the Nets force overtime without him tonight. He was outstanding. It should come as no surprise, though, as Evans has made an NBA career out of this scrappy style of play.
2. Second half surge from Deron Williams
Deron Williams was relatively quiet in the first half, shooting 2-of-7 from the floor. He finished the game with 16 points and 14 assists, many of those dimes being key ones down the stretch. He didn't shoot the ball all that well, hitting on six of his 17 shot attempts, but he did enough as a floor general to lead his team to a win.
3. Gerald Wallace coming up big late
Gerald Wallace had numerous big buckets late in the game, and he also did an incredible job on Carmelo Anthony for most of the second half. Yes, Anthony scored 35, but 23 of those 35 came in the first 30 minutes or so. After that, Melo was held in check, and he became so frustrated that he threw a little elbow into Wallace for an offensive foul on the Knicks' last possession of the game.
4. Bench production overall
It wasn't just Evans tonight. How about Jerry Stackhouse pouring in 14 off the bench and going 4-of-5 from three? Keith Bogans also gave Avery Johnson 20 productive minutes, scoring six points and playing some physical defense.
Now, as for why New York lost...
1. Itchy trigger finger from Raymond Felton
You would think that when you are shooting the ball as poorly as Raymond Felton was tonight, you would stop taking shots, but he didn't. Felton ended up going 3-for-19, including a few huge misses late on shots that everyone in the building was probably second-guessing. You can't have your point guard missing 16 shots. It just can't happen.
2. Missed free throws
The Knicks were 17-of-24 from the line, and while that is not terrible, their best player, Anthony, was responsible for six of those misses. Anthony, a normally reliable free throw shooter, was 10-of-16 from the charity stripe, as it seemed like he was going 1-for-2 every trip to the line. Had he been hitting his free throws, we're probably talking about a New York win.
3. No production outside of Anthony and Tyson Chandler
Anthony had 35 and Tyson Chandler had a career-high 28. The Knicks' next-highest scorer was Felton with 8. You can't expect to win a game when only two of your players are in double-figures. On the flip-side, the Nets had four players hit double-digits in points. The game was really lost right here for New York.
This was an incredible game, one that was certainly entertaining for viewers regardless of who your favorite team is. And think about it: we get to see this three more times this season...and who knows? Maybe we'll see it in the playoffs, too.