EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The way Joe Johnson sees it, the Nets owe the Knicks one.
After taking the first 2012-13 meeting of this renewed rivalry, fueling hope they weren't going to play the little-brother role against the Knicks, the Nets were slapped around a bit in 100-97 and 100-86 losses in the subsequent two meetings.
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The Nets were held to 38 points in the second half of the most recent game on Dec. 19 at the Garden, swinging the four-game regular-season series pendulum back in the Knicks' favor.
Johnson figures it's time for the Nets (24-16) to deliver some payback in the teams' final regular-season matchup Monday.
"They've won the last two," he said after practice at the PNY Center Sunday. "So we definitely want to come out and try to make a statement."
Plenty has changed since the Nets last met their crosstown foes, beginning with their head coach. They've been a completely different team under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, winning eight of their past nine and sporting a 10-2 mark since he took over.
They're readying for what they consider a stiff test against a Knicks team that has two different pieces in place who weren't around for the previous matchups: Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert.
"We're playing a lot better than we were the last time we played them," Deron Williams said. "They also have a different lineup. They've got some key guys back: They got Amar'e back, they got Shump back. So they're a different-look team as well, and they're missing Raymond Felton. It's a big game for both of us.
"We're close in the standings right now, it's Martin Luther King Day. It's a big game."
The Nets are two games behind the first-place Knicks in the Atlantic Division standings, and the all-important head-to-head tiebreaker could be a factor come April.
And, oh yeah, there's that whole city bragging rights thing.
"We are a lot more confident now," Johnson said. "We understand what's at stake. This is a big game, a division game, so we've got to come prepared. They really handed it to us last time we played them in Madison Square, so we have to come focused and ready."
Particularly when it comes to trying to defend Carmelo Anthony. He's averaging 37 points per game against the Nets this season, including 45 on Dec. 11 at Barclays Center. He'll surely be hyped to put on another show in this quickly developing rivalry.
"Both of us are off to a good start," Carlesimo said. "They're off to a very good start. The fact that we're now a New York team and the Barclays/MSG thing. That's a rivalry too. The difference between the two buildings. The teams. And again, the first two games, were basically one-possession games.
"The first one that we won [96-89], they easily could've won. The second one that they won, we could've easily won. The third one was not. Two of the three games were good games. Everything is right for this rivalry right now."