by Russ Bengtson

Well, the Knicks may not be able to win games on a regular basis, but apparently they can beat the Nets—with or without Jason Kidd. It’s a start, I guess.

PREGAME

The Nets locker room is goin’ nuts. T.J. Kidd is in the house, of course, wearing a MEDIA credential and walking around with a friend who’s getting autographs. This seems a little excessive to me, but what do I know?

Strangely, there are more players than media members over on the home side. Fred Jones, Zach Randolph and Jerome James talking with a media staffer, discussing the Clippers’s decision to release Ruben Patterson (“He had a really good year last year, too,” Jones says). Apparently he’s been replaced by Richie Frahm—who Zach played with in Portland, and Jerome played with in Seattle.

I talk to Zach for a couple minutes for a story I’m working on—he’s accommodating and engaging. I ask him how he’s doing otherwise as I turn the tape recorder off, and he replies “just trying to get some wins, man.” I hear that.

Warmups: The Knicks come out to Rick Ross. “Every day I’m hustlin’.” Really? You are? They shoot at the far end of the court opposite their bench—usually the visitors’s basket. Of course the way the Knicks have been playing lately (and the way they’re being received) they should just start wearing their road uniforms at home anyway.

Vince Carter is launching 40-footers. Of course he is. When they form layup lines, he shoots fallaways then, too. Sean Williams tries a ridiculous 360 windmill that doesn’t go down, but at least he TRIES to dunk.

It’s hard to tell whether there are more Nets fans than Knick fans, but it’s close. Whoever thought the Garden would have to rely on fans from across the river to fill the seats (and it still isn’t a sellout).

Of all the jerseys in the crowd, the best one is right in front of the press box—a girl wearing a SIGNED authentic Antonio McDyess Knicks jersey.

Intros: All the Nets receive at least polite applause—and Kidd is cheered louder than any starter. And I mean ANY starter. Isiah is booed lustily, and Eddy Curry gets his share as well. There’s some booing for every Knick starter, it seems, although Z-Bo and Jamal fare the best.

FIRST QUARTER

There’s actually a DE-FENSE chant…when the KNICKS have the ball. Maybe things have been worse in the World’s Most Famous before, but I doubt it.

It’s 4-4 four minutes in. Ah, back-to-backs.

Fred Jones gets a steal, and takes a few extra dribbles to set up for a big dunk. Of course that allows Vince Carter to catch up, and while Vince may not dunk much himself these days, he has no problems with ruining someone else’s. You’d think after getting 15 shots blocked last night the Knicks would have learned, but apparently they haven’t.

Zach finds Eddy Curry with an alley-oop (a surprising development) and apparently Eddy will not be going scoreless tonight. Of course on the next play Eddy is called for an offensive foul, drawn by stand-still expert Jason Collins.

With 5:45 to go in the quarter, Jason Kidd has eight points, and the Nets lead 12-8. Strangely, this does not seem to bode well for the Nets, who don’t appear to be playing their game. Shortly thereafter, Vince Carter records the first Nets assist of the night.

The Dress and Dribble, a sponsored event where two kids gear up in oversized uniforms (and shoes) and race to make a layup, now uses Crawford and Lee jerseys. For the longest time both were Marbury jerseys. An insignificant change…or is it?

The Knicks take an 18-17 lead, then give up a 7-0 run to end the quarter. Kidd has 10 points, but so does Curry, who seems to have emerged from his funk.

SECOND QUARTER

Curry is blocked by Boone, then Lee fouls underneath—and is pulled for Zach with just 19 seconds gone in the quarter.

Curry recovers quickly, emphatically blocking a would-be dunk by Sean Williams and dunking himself on the other end.

Balkman replaces Curry shortly thereafter—who’s applauded as he makes his way to the bench for his first rest of the night. Balkman, of course, immediately is called for a foul.

Zach hoists up a three from up top, and the shot clock isn’t even running out. Yes, Zach, your three-point percentage is terrific, but don’t make this a habit, OK? Jamal Crawford ends up with it, and hits his second corner three of the quarter.

Fred Jones has a shot negated by Sean Williams.

Darrell Armstrong is still wearing And 1 Tai Chis. Amazing. Adds to his overall timecapsuleness.

The Knicks are getting a lot of second chances (the Nets bigs are pretty much entirely useless) but not doing much with them. They’re kind of like Roy Tarpley.

Spike Lee is in the house for what may very well be the first time this year. Apparently he’s been over in Europe filming a World War II movie.

Curry is called for a foul when Jason Collins goes down in the paint. From here, it doesn’t look like Curry had anything to do with it. Let’s just say that Collins should never be asked to participate on Dancing With the Stars. Or in an NBA game, for that matter. The fact that he’s still an NBA STARTER is absolutely ridiculous.

Either the scoreboard or the scoreboard operator is having issues. There’s a No. 11 consistently listed amongst the Nets on the floor, despite the fact that the Nets don’t even have a No. 11. Even stranger, Armstrong is listed as No. 11 on the roster, but he wears No. 10.

The first half mercifully ends with the Knicks clinging to a 40-38 lead. No one has mistaken either team for the Phoenix Suns.

HALFTIME

A local reporter suggests half-seriously that the coach of the losing team should be fired at the end of the night. The suggestion is not met with any objections.

THIRD QUARTER

With 8:45 to go, the Knicks go up seven off a Z steal and Q layup. Said lead is quickly halved (well, as near as seven can be halved) by a Vince Carter three. It’s perhaps worth noting here that Carter leads the Nets in three-point percentage AND field goal percentage. Combine this with the fact that Kidd leads the team in rebounding, and you might wonder (as do I) why the Nets bother having any big men on the roster at all.

The Nets are committing a rather large amount of unforced errors—turnovers, missed rebounds, general crappy play. As I write that down, Jefferson goes crashing into someone on the break and is called for an offensive foul. Pull up, perhaps?

And apparently the Nets have sorted out that their big men are useless, and have pulled most of them. Which means Vince Carter is trying to guard Zach Randolph in the post. Mismatches are fun. Predictably, the Nets commit their fifth foul of the quarter with half of it still to play.

With five minutes to play, the Knicks go up eight and celebrate with consecutive three-second violations. Not that the Nets can do much. They cut the lead to four, and let it go right back on a Q free throw and another Crawford three. The Nets are playing like—dare I say—the Knicks.

At the end of the quarter, Antoine Wright hits a three (assist, VC) with four seconds left, but the Knicks calmly inbound and Crawford sinks a 40-footer at the buzzer. Knicks by eight, 70-62, after three.

FOURTH QUARTER

As of this point, the Nets have been able to do absolutely nothing to stop either Randolph or Curry. Or Crawford, for that matter. That said, Carter—who just dropped a three of his own—hasn’t exactly been hindered.

Knicks still lead by eight still with five minutes to go. The Nets are playing like they’re trying out for a George Romero film, and Lawrence Frank absolutely should be fired after this mess.

LL Cool J draws much bigger cheers than the Pete (Fall Out Boy) Wentz/Ashlee Simpson combo, and suddenly I feel a little bit better about the state of the world.

The Knicks lead by 10 with four minutes to go, helped out by the fact that Antoine Wright has missed four consecutive free throws.

And that’s pretty much how it stays. A “FIRE ISIAH” chant starts with a minute to go, and I suppose it’s just force of habit at this point.

Final score, 94-86 Knicks. Curry got it going, finishing with 23 points (on 9-16 shooting) and nine rebounds. Carter and Sean Williams are the lone bright spots for the Nets. Well, Kidd finishes with 18, 7 and 7 (and four steals), but shoots 0-5 from three. Jefferson shoots 7-21, and the Nets are outrebounded 48-37.

POSTGAME

Some highlights from the Isiah Thomas press conference:

“I just liked our flow and our tempo. The last few games we’ve been getting our flow and our rhythm back.”

‘Eddy’s attitude and approach to the game really gave the team a lot of confidence…When he plays like this he’s a force and a real presence.”

“I thought we came out of training camp moving and cutting. Then, I think, when we went out West, we still had some good moments but we started losing some flow then. I thought we really hit rock bottom the last couple of games. I thought the Seattle game we started getting some rhythm back, and we finally got a win tonight. But we still have a long, long, long, long, long, LONG way to go.”

“We’ve only played 25 percent of the season, there’s a lot of time left. A team catches fire, you can win four, five games in a row and be right back in the thick of things. There are a lot of teams that are trying to find themselves in the East, and we’re one of them.”

Another one was the team visiting tonight. The Nets were supposed to be contenders to win the East, instead they find themselves in much the same situation as the Knicks. “The season’s been frustrating,” Richard Jefferson says. “Tonight we just didn’t have it.” When he finally emerges from the back, Vince Carter says many of the same things. “It’s just tough being up and down. For us, we have to play perfect basketball right now. It’s just important for us to stay positive.” Yeah, good luck with all that.