By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
It was the unkindest cut of all.
Jason Kidd, the original face of the Brooklyn Nets, made his Downtown debut a memorable one Tuesday night at the Barclays Center, drilling what proved to be the game-winning 3-point dagger with 24 seconds remaining to lift the Knicks to a stirring 100-97 victory over our borough's suddenly slumping franchise before a bi-partisan sellout crowd of 17,732 on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
Kidd, who led New Jersey to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in 2002-03, was the Nets' undisputed superstar nearly a decade ago when the team first announced its plans to become Brooklyn's first major pro sports franchise since the Dodgers left for Los Angeles in 1957. The now 39-year-old future Hall of Famer was instead traded to Dallas in 2007 and eventually helped the Mavericks win their first-ever world championship four years later.
Now a member of the East River rival Knicks, Kidd missed the original "Clash of the Boroughs" due to back spasms on Nov. 26, when the Nets pulled out an historic 96-89 overtime triumph against the city's more-established franchise. He made sure to leave a permanent imprint on Brooklynites in the rematch, finishing with a season-high 18 points with six rebounds and six assists.
Kidd's 3-pointer with just over four minutes to play forged the first tie of the night, and his last-second dagger elicited a roar of approval from the orange-and-blue clad fans in the state-of-the-art arena, which pulsated from opening tip till final buzzer in the newest installment of our city's ever-bourgeoning feud.
"I just want to win. I'm a competitor," beamed Kidd, who received a tap out from Knicks center Tyson Chandler, deftly stepped into the onrushing Jerry Stackhouse for a foul call and tickled the twine to snap a 97-97 deadlock before pounding the Nets' herringbone-design hardwood and raising his fist in triumph.
Kidd missed the ensuing free throw to keep it a one-possession game, but rather than call timeout after the devastating long-range bomb, Nets coach Avery Johnson urged his players up the floor.
Deron Williams, the Nets' $100 million point guard as well as the organization's pied piper during the final stages of the move to Brooklyn, had the last chance to force OT when he wound up with a loose ball off a missed 3-pointer by Gerald Wallace.
Williams took to the air from just beyond the arc along the left elbow, but his potential tying shot bounded off the rim as time expired, leaving he and his teammates with their fifth straight loss and initial defeat to the Knicks since the relocation.
"I hate him," Williams said of Kidd with tongue firmly in cheek, taking a playful jab at the player he idolized on his path to the pros. "That's a good quote, you can use that, 'I hate him'.
Of course, Kidd's heroics would not have been possible without the otherwordly performance of Brooklyn-born Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, who continued his early season MVP campaign with a season-high 45 points. Anthony and Kidd combined to hit 11 of New York's 14 3-pointers as Johnson stepped to the postgame press conference podium chagrined by his club's inability to avert an 0-4 homestand with Wednesday night's visit to Toronto looming.
"We kind of got sucked in and once we did, Kidd got open and made the play," he said. "In a perfect world, they probably should have made seven or eight 3s tonight, not 14. The main thing is we didn't do a good job of guarding the 3-point line. Every time we took a big lead, they hit a 3. I'm proud of our guys. They played hard under a lot of adversity. This was a winnable game, but we didn't close it out."
Missing center Brook Lopez for the sixth straight game, the Nets ran out to an early 17-point lead as backup pivotman Andray Blatche resumed his career-reviving renaissance with the Nets after six turbulent years in Washington. Blatche finished with a season-high 23 points, but it was his inability to snare a rebound before Kidd's big 3 that ultimately cost the Nets a chance to improve to 2-0 against their blood rivals.
"That hurts. It was a really tough battle. We had the game won," Blatche lamented. "Tyson Chandler made a great play to tap the ball back out. But that's on me. We just need to stay positive until the next one. The game is made of runs. We made ours, they made theirs."
Blatche was also involved in the game's most controversial play. His putback in the late stages of regulation was negated by a delayed offensive interference call, costing Brooklyn an opportunity to open a four-point cushion. But neither Blatche nor Johnson used the borderline ruling as an excuse for the crushing loss.
"I thought it was a clean putback, but the biggest play was Tyson tapping the ball out for the second chance," Blatche humbly noted.
"Once that ball went in we were getting back in transition and then suddenly there was a call," Johnson added as his team fell to 11-9 and 4 1/2 games behind Atlantic Division-leading New York. "There was a little indecision there, but we just felt the play should have kept going. Obviously, it was a big play in the game. But this was a really [well] officiated game. There's no complaining about the officiating tonight."
Despite the expression of his ire for Kidd, Williams took ownership of the defeat and the Nets' ongoing struggles, as a true leader should.
"I need to play better. I dont' feel like I've had a good game yet this season," he said after finishing with an ultimately unsatisfying 18 points and 10 assists. "I need to get back to trying to dominate games. I'm trying to find a rhythm out there but it's just not happening for some reason. I have to be more aggressive out there."
"We have to go to Toronto and get the job done," added Blatche as the team prepared to leave the country, having suffered by far its most gutwrenching loss in its new home compliments of a familiar but now unfriendly face.
Et tu, Jason?
Hoop du Jour: The crowd appeared to be leaning in favor of the Knicks Tuesday night after Brooklynites ruled the roost at Barclays on Nov. 26. "Their fans are loud," admitted Williams, who was actually booed at the line after drawing a foul from Ronnie Brewer in the first half. "They're going to make their presence felt. They have great fans." ... Before the game, Williams was named the NBA's Kia Community Assist Award for November in recognition of his outstanding efforts in the community and his ongoing philanthropic and charibable work. "I am grateful to be in position to give back to others, especially given that there are so many different causes, so many different diseases, and so many people who have problems," Williams said. ... G Joe Johnson scored 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting Tuesday night, but was dismayed by the Nets' inability to finish off the Knicks down the stretch. "It just seems as though when it comes toward the end of the fourth quarter, we stagnate offensively and don't move the ball the way we did in the previous quarters," he said. "We just haven't been able to put teams away. You have to be able to finish games off. It's tough, but it's a long season and we have to keep grinding and find a way to get a win." ... Wallace had a scary knee-on-knee collision with Knicks F J.R. Smith late in the fourth quarter and had to be helped from the floor before re-entering the game in the waning moments. "He just banged knees," coach Johnson said. "I hope he's all right because obviously, he's important to our team." ... The Nets continued to re-connect with the old Brooklyn Dodgers before Tuesday game. In celebration of the return of big-time pro sports to our borough, the Nets had a commemoration ceremony for the Ebbets Field flagpole, which stands outside Barclays Center. The event was attended by Sharon Robinson, daughter of trailblazing Brooklyn second baseman Jackie Robinson. Sharon Robinson also attended the game and received a long, hearty applause from the crowd after her image was displayed on the massive scoreboard above the court. ... In other local hoops news, St. Francis Brooklyn suffered its season-high fourth straight defeat, 77-61, to visiting Stony Brook in Brooklyn Heights on Tuesday night. Jalen Cannon and Kevin Douglas scored 14 points apiece for the struggling Terriers (2-6), who will take on St. John's at the Barclays Center on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.