By Sean Hartnett
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Back spasms forced Jason Kidd to miss his first chance to sample the renewed Knicks-Nets rivalry and the atmosphere of the Barclays Center.
On Tuesday night, Kidd took full advantage of his opportunity to deliver a message to franchise he once carried on his back. The man who breathed life into the Nets in 2001 drove a stake through the team’s heart by sinking clutch three-pointers in an unfamiliar uniform of the New York Knicks.
Tyson Chandler had an off night. J.R. Smith battled bravely through back spasms. Raymond Felton fell apart late in the game. Felton’s confidence was shot. He shied away from open shot opportunities and the wise, experienced Kidd picked up his teammates.
That’s what a great player does.
Kidd nailed the game-winning shot with 24.1 seconds remaining. He was as cool as they come and finished the night with 18 points, six assists, six rebounds and no turnovers.
Not only did Kidd hit the pressure shot, he stuck his leg out for the chance to complete a four-point play. Had Kidd not drawn the contact, it’s very possible he would have been called for an offensive foul. Kidd missed his free throw, but it didn’t matter in the end as the Knicks escaped the Barclays Center with an emotional 100-97 victory.
“That’s why we went and got him,” Carmelo Anthony told MSG’s Tina Cervasio after the game. “That’s why we wanted him. We know how much of a big time player he is, especially coming down the stretch. For them to leave a guy like that open, he came up big time for us tonight.”
“Games like this, these are games we’ve got to win. We claim to be great team and good teams wins games like this. On the road, a tough atmosphere — Jason Kidd came up big for us, ” Anthony told reporters.
Kidd finished the game an electric 6-for-8 from three-point range for 18 points.
“He makes shot after shot, play after play. Whether it’s a steal, whether it’s a three — diving for a ball. He just makes play, after play, after play. That’s the reason why he’s a Hall of Famer,” Tyson Chandler said following the win.
Kidd Has Molded Himself Into A Three-Point Assassin
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. No one ever told Jason Kidd.
During his prime years, Kidd was the NBA’s most talented distributor and best all-around defending point guard. If he had a weakness, it was a lack of consistent shooting from beyond the arc. Kidd typically shot 32-to-36 percent from three-point range during those years.
At 39, Kidd is no longer the league’s best playmaker and he lacks the foot speed required to be an elite defender. His role has changed with the Knicks as head coach Mike Woodson prefers to use Kidd at the two guard.
One thing that hasn’t changed? Kidd’s work ethic. He’s accepted the challenge of molding his game to fit into the off-guard role.
Through 17 games, Kidd is shooting an incredible 52.8 percent (38-for-72) from three-point territory.
It seems whenever the Knicks need a big shot or an important steal, Kidd has been involved. The Knicks asked Kidd to modify his game, and he’s finally developed himself into a clutch shooter at 39.
While his improved shooting might be new to Nets fans, Knicks fans have seen him do it all year and more importantly, they’ve seen the difference in their team’s play when Kidd is on the court.
It’s only fitting that Kidd would take center stage in the rivalry and write its newest chapter.
His clutch performance on Tuesday night elevated the Knicks to 4.5 games ahead of the Nets in the Atlantic Division and his veteran presence is a huge reason why the Knicks stand alone at the top of the Eastern Conference at 16-5.
How vital is Jason Kidd to the Knicks’ cause? Sound off below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.