It seems like a shame that Monday afternoon's contest between the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks will be the last matchup between the two city rivals for the season.
But that's the way the schedule broke, so the Martin Luther King, Jr. afternoon game on Monday at Madison Square Garden will be it, unless the two teams meet in the playoffs.
"We don't need to hype our guys up for this: it's a division rival, it's the other team in the city, they've beaten us two out of three, so what more?," said Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo. "It's Martin Luther King Day, it's the Garden, it's a big game for city basketball."
The Nets won the first game this season, in Brooklyn, after what was supposed to be the season-opener was canceled after Superstorm Sandy. The Knicks won the next two, including the makeup game, at the Barclays Center.
After a great run under Carlesimo, the Nets have closed the gap and only trail the Knicks by two games for the Atlantic Division lead.
Clearly, Carlesimo was correct - this game means a lot.
The Knicks aren't just returning to the Garden on Monday, they're returning to the good old United States of America. New York played the Detroit Pistons in London on Thursday and left jolly ole' England with a 102-87 victory.
The big news out of London was the return of defensive specialist Iman Shumpert to the lineup, and the starting lineup at that. Shumpert missed the whole season up until Thursday after he tore his ACL during the first round of last season's playoffs.
Shumpert played just under 15 minutes and scored eight points to go along with two rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal.
"It was a wonderful test for him," said Knicks coach Mike Woodson after the game. "He answered the bell, loud and clear."
Carmelo Anthony set the pace for the Knicks with 26 points. Four other New York players scored in double figures, including Tyson Chandler, who pulled down 14 rebounds.
The Nets have been fantastic under Carlesimo, posting a 10-2 record. Their version of the Big Three was on display Friday night when they beat the Atlanta Hawks, 94-89, in the second of a home-and-home.
At the Barclays Center, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez combined for 62 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, two steals and a block. Andray Blatche had 11 off the bench and Reggie Evans pulled down 20 boards.
Williams went 7-for-7 from the foul line and has made 47 straight free throws. The Hawks game was close, but Lopez came over and blocked a key Jeff Teague shot under a minute to go to seal the victory.
"I tried to get over and I was fortunate to block the shot," said Lopez.
The Knicks are 8-2 in their last 10 against the Nets.