- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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All the long-time Boston Celtic had to do was reaffirm his hatred for the New York Knicks during the offseason and add that it was time for the Nets to start running the city.
OK, so maybe that whole “running the city” thing hasn’t happened.
But the Nets (40-33) did guarantee themselves the best regular-season record in New York on Tuesday night, when they beat the Houston Rockets to clinch a playoff spot.
Hey, it’s a start.
Which leads us to Wednesday night: Nets at Knicks. Madison Square Garden. East River Rivalry resumed.
And both teams still have a lot to play for.
The Nets are trying to get home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, while the Knicks (32-43) are trying to salvage an extremely disappointing campaign by squeaking into the playoffs with the Eastern Conference's No. 8 seed.
“We’re worried about our team. Truthfully, we could care less about the Knicks,” Pierce said. “We’re worried about how far we’re going to go and how far we’re going to rise in the standings. That’s the main thing. The Knicks, they have their own business, but we’re trying to win every game.”
Fair enough. But given that all that transpired in the summer, including the back-and-forth between Pierce and J.R. Smith?
That has to give this game a little more juice, no?
“We know these games -- even we say they don’t mean more -- they mean a lot more just because of the rivalry that’s been formed,” Nets point guard Deron Williams said. “And the fans definitely get up for the game, and we do too. It’s gonna be a fun game tomorrow.”
Feels like forever ago that the Knicks whooped the Nets by 30 in Brooklyn on Dec. 5, doesn’t it?
The Nets were 5-14 then.
Things sure have chanced since.
Brooklyn, during a stretch of 10 wins in 11 games, would go on to defeat New York by 23 on Jan. 20 at the Garden.
The Nets own the East’s best record since Jan. 1, going 30-12 over that span.
“It’s definitely going to be heated,” Shaun Livingston said. “It’s going to be a fight. They have a lot at stake, and we’re still fighting. We just want to come out and continue to play good basketball. Obviously, this game is going to have a lot of hype. We don’t want to blow it out of proportion, but we know what it is.”
Added Joe Johnson: “We wanna win. Let’s make no mistake about it. We’re gonna do whatever we can to go into their building and try to walk out of there with a win. It’s just what it is.”
Whatever happens on Wednesday night should be memorable -- at least for one of the fan bases, anyway.
4dMarc Stein and Mike Mazzeo