Most of the New York Knicks spent the first six weeks of the season telling anyone and everyone that the Knicks and their new neighbors -- the Brooklyn Nets -- weren't true rivals.
But after he scored a season-high 45 points in a dramatic Knicks' win at the Barclays Center on Tuesday night, Carmelo Anthony came clean.
"It is," Anthony said when asked if Knicks-Nets had developed into a rivalry. "After that first game, we might as well accept that. It is what it is. They’re in our division. We see them four times a year. It is a rivalry. It’s great for New York to have that in Brooklyn and Manhattan. When we come here, it’s a battle. When they come in there, it’s going to be a battle. So we accept that."
That's a fact Anthony will gladly accept after he and the Knicks walked off the floor with a win.
After they trailed by as many as 17 points in the first quarter, the Knicks stormed back thanks to a torrid second quarter from Anthony. Melo poured in 14 points in the second frame, including three 3-pointers, to help New York close to within four.
"He was making 2s, he was making 3s, he was making 5-pointers, too," Nets guard Jerry Stackhouse said.
But in the moment of truth, with the game tied at 97-97 and less than 30 seconds to play, Anthony gave the ball up.
Kidd calmly hit from 26 feet out while absorbing contact from Stackhouse, hitting a shot that ultimately would give the Knicks the win.
Maybe in years past, Anthony would have dribbled out the shot clock and forced a shot. But we haven't seen that Melo this season.
"This young man wants to win in the worst way," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said.
The fact that Anthony gave the ball up in a crucial possession wasn't lost on his teammates.
What did it show Kidd?
"Growth," the 18-year veteran said. "He's playing at a high level on both ends and I don't think he gets the credit he deserves."
"To me, that says a lot," Woodson added. "He's got to do that. I think guys around hi, he trusts those guys to make shots."
For most of the night, Anthony, a Brooklyn native, was the guy making shots. With the Knicks down five entering the fourth, he flat-out took over.
He hit a 3-pointer with 6:45 to go to cut the Nets' lead to one as the "MVP!" chants rained down from the split Barclays Center crowd. He then had a tip-in of his own miss to give the Knicks a two-point lead with less than three minutes to play, their first lead since two minutes into the third quarter.
After two Nets free-throws on the next possession, Anthony again gave the Knicks the lead, taking advantage of a five-on-four (Gerald Wallace was on the ground after knocking knees with Smith) by hitting a 13-foot fadeaway.
Then he corralled a rebound and gave the ball up to Smith, setting up Kidd's game winnner.
"That’s why we went and got him. We know how much of a big-time player he is. He came up big for us," Anthony said.
He was talking about Kidd. But those words could easily apply to Melo, too.