By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Brooklyn Nets beat the visiting New York Knicks 96-89 in an overtime thriller on Monday in the first battle for 'Big Apple' bragging rights between the city rivals.
Brooklyn's victory at the new Barclays Center lifted the Nets (9-4) into a tie with the Knicks (9-4) for first place in the Atlantic Division in front of a boisterous crowd.
"Every time some sort of Knick contingent started to cheer, our fans got louder and this is what we have been dreaming about since I have been here," said Nets coach Avery Johnson, recalling sparse crowds in the last few seasons in New Jersey.
"It is a nice feeling and I am glad we rewarded our fans with a victory. They deserved it."
Tied 84-84 after regulation, the Knicks scored the first basket of the extra period but the Nets countered with eight points in a row, the last three from hustling plays by Gerald Wallace to surge to a 92-86 lead and were never threatened.
"Fatigue set in," said Knicks coach Mike Woodson, whose team, like the Nets, had also played on Sunday. "Brooklyn's starters put in a lot of minutes also, but they had a little more energy."
Center Brook Lopez led the Nets with 22 points, with Deron Williams and Wallace each scoring 16. Reserve player Jerry Stackhouse made 4-of-5 from three-point range and scored 14 points for Brooklyn.
Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks' scoring leader who was born in Brooklyn, led New York with 35 points, while center Tyson Chandler had 28 points on 12-of-13 shooting with his hoops coming from tip-ins, follow-ups and slam dunks.
Missing veteran point guard Jason Kidd, who was sidelined by back spasms, Anthony played over 50 minutes and Chandler was on the court for more than 45 minutes.
'START OF SOMETHING'
The game had been originally set to kick off the NBA season for the New York teams but was postponed due to the damage in the area caused by superstorm Sandy.
While that thrill was gone from this initial clash between the teams, the tension was heightened by the great start enjoyed by both in the early days of the season.
Blue-and-orange clad Knicks fans made themselves heard in the sprawling arena, which is just a 25-minute subway ride from midtown Manhattan, but their chants were drowned out by the sing-song "Brooklyn, Brooklyn, Brooklyn" favored by Nets fans.
The tight, defensive battle included 14 lead changes with the score tied 13 times during the game.
In the end, the Nets' cohesion and passing made a difference, with the winners registering 23 assists to 14 for the Knicks, a figure Brooklyn point guard Williams matched all by himself.
"I thought it was a big game in general for us," said Williams. "It's hard to deny the atmosphere. It definitely was an exciting game for us.
"It was a total 180 (degrees) from last year when it was mostly Knicks fans and all the chants and cheers were for them," added Williams about their games against New York when they were in New Jersey.
"It was great to feel that we have a home court advantage finally."
Even Anthony appreciated the ambience.
"An unbelievable atmosphere," he said. "If I could step back from this and take my Knicks uniform off ... just to see that and be a part of that atmosphere there's nothing like it.
"They're across the bridge, they're here in Brooklyn, we're in the city (Manhattan). We're in the same division, we play four times a year. I guess you could say this is the start of something."
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury/Peter Rutherford)