Kevin Knox, DeAndre Jordan
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

The Brooklyn Nets took Round 1 over the New York Knicks in the NBA’s Battle of the Boroughs, 2019. Here’s a first-person perspective.

It was a date that had been circled on my calendar since the NBA schedule was released a few months ago. Brooklyn Nets vs. New York Knicks on a Friday night at Barclays Center. The build-up to this game was something rivaling a pressure cooker. Since Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving signed with Brooklyn over the summer, Nets and Knicks Twitter has been going at it like cats and dogs. The new-age Battle of the Boroughs had arrived.

I began my journey to the game much like I’ve begun every journey to Barclays Center. Take the Metro-North from my town in Westchester, hop the 4 train at Grand Central en route to Brooklyn. This time was a bit different, as I had to meet up with a friend beforehand. So I ended up arriving by Q train. I highly advise taking the Q to Barclays if you can.

Walking up the long staircase into the plaza that sits outside Barclays Center, there was a unique buzz in the air. It seemed as if half of New York had gathered to the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue to watch the two teams duke it out. My friend and I made our way into the arena and while walking the concourse, all I could see was a bevy of Knicks fans. The Knickerbocker faithful came out in full force to assert their dominance and claim over the city.


We sat just as the Nets player introductions were starting and what I heard was something I didn’t think I’d ever hear. The home team’s star player getting booed during his introduction. I was in such disbelief that I thought I was hearing things.

However, the game tipped off and the action was underway. Scanning the crowd, it was clear the Knicks fans were there to prove a point. And no point was proven greater than when Kyrie Irving stepped up to the free-throw line with 10:07 to go in the first quarter. A resounding chorus of boos echoed throughout the Barclays—the type of resounding boos you would expect to hear when an opponent is at the line. Yet here I was, listening to Knicks fans serenade Irving with boos when just months prior they were photo-shopping him in a Knicks jersey.

https://twitter.com/KnicksMSGN/status/1187879060501913600

Kyrie would knock down his two free-throws. In fact, Irving got booed on all eight of his free-throw attempts. The game would progress with the Nets taking a nine-point lead into the second quarter. The crowd was brought to life by a DeAndre Jordan reverse alley-oop from Spencer Dinwiddie. In the second, the Nets would start to find their groove, building up a 14-point lead at one point. Kyrie had the ball on a string and with each dribble move the crowd would “ooh and aaahh” no matter the colors they wore.

Then there was a bit of a scuffle toward the end of the second quarter that got the crowd into it, as Bobby Portis and Taurean Prince got into a pushing match which resulted in double technical fouls.

A quick 5-0 Kyrie Irving run to end the half had the Nets up by 13.

The second half started in favor of the Nets, amassing a lead as big as 19 points by the middle of the third quarter. Shots were falling, David Fizdale was calling timeouts and all things were pointing toward a resounding Nets blowout win.

But then something happened, like when you give your older brother the controller in a game to help you out against the computer. A switch was flipped and the Knicks began fighting back. That 19-point lead had been cut to 11 and the energy at Barclays seemed to change. During the end of the quarter timeout, there was a strange feeling I felt. Like that calm breeze, you feel before it starts to thunderstorm. Well, that breeze turned into a light rain.

Kevin Knox started the fourth quarter with back-to-back threes and just like that, the Nets lead was down to seven. Brooklyn would keep New York at bay at around 10 points for a while but then it happened: the downpour thunderstorm had arrived. Julius Randle made a bucket. Then Wayne Ellington hits a three. Bang! Five-point lead. Then Randle makes another basket. Down to three. And at this point, the Knicks fans can be heard in full force spurring their team on. They were taking over Barclays and it didn’t seem like there was anything anyone could do to stop them.

After a Brooklyn timeout, Kyrie misses a shot and then, bang. Ellington hits another three. The game is tied and Knicks fans are getting raucous. Kyrie responds with a bucket and then, bang. Ellington strikes again. The Knicks are up 107-106. The Knicks faithful are in a frenzy. I can do nothing but sit down in disbelief, dreading what seemed like the inevitable. My friend (you know the one from earlier) a Knicks fan, is standing next to me cheering right along with his Knicks brethren.

A Brooklyn turnover and an RJ Barrett shot gives New York a three-point lead. Immediately, my mind goes to Twitter because I’m a social media addict and I’m thinking of all the trash-talking I and the rest of Nets Twitter did leading up to this game. How it’ll come back to bite us and all the incoming trolling from Knicks fans which would’ve been rightfully deserved.

But, like the caped crusader that he is, Kyrie Irving decided to write his own ending. With just under a minute left Kyrie hits a jumper from the top of the key to cut the lead to one. Marcus Morris would go on to miss an ill-advised step back jumper setting the stage for Kyrie to do what Kyrie does.

Irving brought the ball down and everyone in the building knew who was taking the shot on this possession. The set up couldn’t have been better. Irving was guarded by the Knicks prized rookie RJ Barrett. After dribbling for a few seconds, he drove then pulled it back out. He lulled Barrett to sleep then hit a step aside fade-away three-pointer which blew the roof off of the arena. The shot was somewhat similar to his game-winning shot in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. Nets fans were jubilant. Knicks fans in anguish and shock. And there I was, screaming my head off like Buddy the Elf when he found out Santa was coming to the mall.

Julius Randle would turn the ball over on the Knicks’ next possession. After a couple of Spencer Dinwiddie free-throws, the game was over. Kyrie may have missed the game-winner against Minnesota on Wednesday but his game-winner against the Knicks meant so much more.

If this game was any indication of what future Knicks vs. Nets games will be like then sign me up. During the game, the jeering and back and forth between Knicks fans and the Brooklyn Brigade was highly entertaining. The Knicks are where the Nets were a year or two ago: a bunch of young and scrappy guys that’ll give effort no matter who they’re playing.

If New York’s young talent develops the way they hope and with the return of KD next year, there will be more battles like this one to come. For now, chalk this one up in the Brooklyn column.


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