It wasn’t until the Knicks’ portion of the crowd was silenced into final submission that it truly felt like a home-court advantage Monday for the Nets. Deron Williams was at the line to shoot free throws with 30.1 seconds to play in overtime, hearing the “MVP” chant that had earlier been reserved for Carmelo Anthony.
Free throws made, the Nets with an insurmountable lead, the new borough battle cry — “Brooklyn” with a few extra O’s, though finally without recorded prompt — serenaded the putative road team.
Until Anthony’s shooting legs collapsed under the weight of 50 minutes played and too many possessions run directly through him, Barclays Center was a Chicago Bulls’ road adventure at the height of Jordan mania, a 1990s Knicks game with the snowbirds on their side in Miami.
For a couple of former Los Angeles Clippers, there were moments when it sounded like a Staples Center hosting of the Lakers.
“Really mixed, almost like a tournament atmosphere,” said the Knicks’ Marcus Camby, a Clipper as recently as 2010, after the Nets’ 96-89 victory.
“Reminded me of when I was with the Clippers last year and you’d get so many Lakers fans,” said Reggie Evans, the Nets’ Rodmanesque rebounder. “You’re talking about the Lakers and they got, what, 18 championships?”
Actually, it is 16 titles for the Lakers, counting the five claimed in Minneapolis long before professional basketball had the popularity and clout to claim prime urban real estate for glitzy arenas. But Evans’ point — “we got none, so there’s no comparison,” he said, still speaking as a Clipper — was that the invading Nets must realize that rabid and wholesale partisanship is a process, not a pronouncement.
With their grand total of two NBA championships, the Knicks sure aren’t the Lakers — and in fact the Nets of New Jersey, with two more recent trips to the finals, have enjoyed a much better 21st century — but Brooklyn has been a blue-and-orange borough for more than 50 years.
The Nets are trending there, but in relative communicative terms, they are Twitter compared to the Knicks’ network television.
All things considered, Nets coach Avery Johnson’s hope for an 80-20 crowd split — the inverse of how it felt to him when the Knicks played New Jersey — was wishful thinking. The actual percentages Monday night were impossible to quantify, but put it this way: A split was win-win for the Nets.
Even taking into account their dramatic improvement and current sharing with the Knicks of the divisional lead, the arena for now is the greater attraction, the borough’s pride, neighborhood opposition to its existence notwithstanding.
“Call it a budding rivalry,” Camby said. “I’m anxious to see if they have any fans in the Garden.”
Knicks star Anthony, who was born in Brooklyn and lived there until he was 8, was more emphatic.
“It was unbelievable tonight,” Anthony said of the atmosphere. “It was a special place to play.”