Deron Williams wanted badly to downplay it. He just couldn't.
The Nets are the hottest team in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks are fighting for their playoff lives. New York City's two teams will meet Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden and there's no denying the significance.
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Try as he might, Williams could not muster up a cliche saying the game didn't matter.
"You can say they don't mean more, but they mean a lot more," the Nets point guard said Tuesday night after a 105-96 win over the Rockets at Barclays Center. "They mean a lot just because of the rivalry. Fans definitely get up for the game and we do, too."
How could they not? The Knicks are always going to be the big dog in New York. The Nets might be better -- their record says they are -- but unless they beat the Knicks head to head, it won't matter as much. They have a chance to do that Wednesday night at the Garden, too. As bright and shiny as Barclays Center is, MSG still has the history.
"Man, it's definitely gonna be heated," guard Shaun Livingston said. "It's gonna be a fight. They have a lot at stake and we're still fighting . . . Obviously, the game is gonna have a lot of hype. We don't want to blow it out of proportion, but you know what it is."
The Knicks are one game out of a playoff spot and every game at this point is massive. The Nets, in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, just clinched a postseason berth and are looking toward earning home-court advantage. That would be huge for a team that has won a franchise-record 14 straight games at home.
"We want to win," guard Joe Johnson said. "Let's make no mistake about it. We're gonna do whatever we can to go into their building and walk away with a win."
It'll be a hot ticket. Bragging rights will be at stake.
But Paul Pierce still isn't buying into the buzz.
"Truthfully," he said, "we could care less about the Knicks."