Tuesday, April 20, 2004
Updated: April 21, 10:46 PM ET
Round 2 goes to Nets again
By Joe Lago
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Knicks came to Continental Airlines Arena looking to get even Tuesday night. One way or another.
They spent the last two days talking about inflicting the same type of physical pain that knocked Tim Thomas to the floor in Game 1 and out of Game 2 with a bruised lower back. The public promise for payback had league disciplinarian Stu Jackson in the house ready to dole out suspensions in case the Lincoln Tunnel series regressed into WWF Smackdown.
The Knicks left the Meadowlands empty-handed, with no series-tying win or a TKO. There wasn't even a mandatory eight count, as each Net went home with all of their teeth, fingers and toes and no need for any overnight hospital stays after a 99-81 victory.
Just like Round 1, the ringside cards had the Knicks losing badly.
"I don't think we played as physical as we probably could've," Knicks center Nazr Mohammed said. "We played some physical defense and made many runs, but overall, we could've been a little more physical.
"I watched a couple of [playoff] games [Monday] and those were some physical games. I was excited about today, hoping we were going to play as physical as the games I was watching. But we didn't."
Not that any rough stuff would've prevented the Nets from running away with another double-digit win and a 2-0 lead to carry into Thursday's Game 3 at Madison Square Garden. New Jersey's fastbreak once again proved to be lethal for New York, scoring three straight buckets from point-blank range to start the second half to take a 59-39 lead.
But the night's big blow was once again scored by the Nets, when Richard Jefferson sent Stephon Marbury crashing headfirst into the baseline row of photographers on a layup attempt. Marbury got up and walked toward the free-throw line, where Jefferson just happened to be standing, but a referee stepped in front of Marbury to prevent the situation from escalating.
Did Marbury think it was a dirty play? "No comment," he said.
"I wasn't trying to hurt him," Jefferson said. "He did the same to me [in the third quarter]. That's just basketball."
The no-layup rule was still in effect with the Nets holding an 88-69 lead. A frustrated Marbury drove to the basket only to be met by Aaron Williams, who blocked the shot but also got whistled for the hard foul. Shandon Anderson then kept Jefferson from driving in for a dunk by pushing him in the back and down to the floor.
"I thought the game was officiated extremely well," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "I think both teams competed and played the game the right way. There was nothing malicious or dirty out there."
Dikembe Mutombo was one of the few Knicks who intended to mix it up once he stepped on the court. He took a running start in lowering his shoulder into a stationery Jason Collins, whose flagrant foul hurt Thomas in Game 1, and continually drew contact down low for rebounds and putbacks against the fast-collapsing Nets' defense.
"The only way we were going to win this game," Mutombo said, "was to be physical."
Unfortunately for the Knicks, they didn't walk the walk.
"We don't talk. We just go out and play basketball," Kenyon Martin said. "All we've done is win games, no matter what people are saying in the paper or on TV or what not. We just go out and play. We don't pay any attention to that negative stuff."
Joe Lago is the NBA editor at ESPN.com.