NEWARK, N.J. - The Nets will tell you this game is one of the reasons they’re moving out of New Jersey. They had their first full house of the season and most of the fans were cheering for the opposing team.
Naturally, there were more Knicks fans at The Rock. The Knicks fans always come out in droves in New Jersey. The Nets think it’s going to change when they move to Brooklyn, but that’s in the heart of Knicks’ country.
The only way, if there is a way, for the Nets to beat the Knicks is by beating them off the court. In other words, the Nets have to do whatever they can to make sure the Knicks don’t get Carmelo Anthony.
The Knicks didn’t have Amar’e Stoudemire last night and they handed the Nets a 105-95 loss at the Prudential Center that has to rank as one of the worst of the season.
The Nets have played worse games. A couple against Indiana, one against Milwaukee and one against Boston come to mind. But it was how the Nets lost and how they were humiliated that made this one so bad.
Without Stoudemire, who had a sprained right big toe, the Nets should have been the aggressors, should have had the Knicks chasing them and quieted the fans in their own building.
But the Nets let the Knicks get whatever they wanted, en route to 59 – FIFTY-NINE first-half points - and let their fans have the loudest voices in the building. In the fourth quarter, the Nets were booed when they stepped to the foul line – in their building.
“I’ve been here four, four and a half years,” Devin Harris said. “I’m used to the home crowd turning on us a little bit. That’s natural for us. I love the enthusiasm with the way we came out and obviously didn’t like the way the game ended.”
It’s wrong that Harris is used to the home crowd turning on the Nets. But it has happened to them over and over. The Lakers, Mavericks, Heat, and Celtics have loud fans come to their games here, but nothing like the Knicks.
That’s why I’ve brought up Anthony again. He may not want to join them, but the Nets’ pursuit can’t be finished. They say it is, but the trade deadline is Feb. 24 and the Nuggets still could call the Nets, since they have made the best offer.
You have to believe Anthony would help the Nets garner more support in the short-term here and in the long-term in Brooklyn. He’s not nearly as exciting or able to do the things Jason Kidd and Vince Carter did during their time here, but Anthony seems to be more popular.
It’s easy to say this is a game that shows the Nets need a star. But they could have and should have won this game without a star.
The Knicks didn’t have Stoudemire, their best scorer, rebounder and shot blocker. The Nets should have taken advantage of this good fortune, recorded their first three-game winning streak since the 2008-09 season.
But the Nets only held a four-rebound edge overall, a two-board advantage on the offensive glass and a three-point advantage on second-chance points. They also gave the Knicks limitless open shots and the Knicks made them pay.
Even without Stoudemire, the Knicks spread the floor and the Nets were scrambling. Say whatever you want about Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni, but his system works. Of course it looks better if players knock down shots.
But he went small, his players were open all night and 16 three-pointers later, the Nets were humbled by 10 points.
You can point to all the Nets’ missed layups and dunks, nine bricked free throws and 19 turnovers, but as much as any it was their breakdowns in their defense that cost them this game.
The Nets could have won this game and should have won this game without a star. But if they really want to compete in New York and thrive on the Knicks’ turf, the Nets need one.
“I was really concerned. In a way I wanted him to play because everything was geared around what he does. We told the guys before the pregame meeting and I tried to tell them we’re still underdogs, we’re not the favorites. But we just didn’t get off to quite the start that I thought we should.
- Avery Johnson upon learning Stoudemire was out
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Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)