Avery Johnson could see right away that Monday wasn't going to be a normal day.
"It all started this morning, just when we came in to watch film. Guys were really early,'' the Nets coach said with a chuckle. "I thought on Monday morning, New York traffic, maybe somebody would be late.
"I sensed it a little bit more as the game went on."
That sixth sense probably continued into overtime, too, when the Nets locked things down vise-grip style. They outfoxed the Knicks in the extra session, holding them to one field goal in the final 4:44 to pull out a scintillating 96-89 win Monday night before a sellout Barclays Center crowd of 17,732 in a playoff atmosphere.
Enjoying a true home-court advantage for the first time in years, if not decades -- the arena probably was split about 70-30 in favor of their fans -- the Nets (9-4) climbed into a first-place tie with the Knicks (9-4) in the Atlantic Division. The last time both were atop the division was in 1997, at 10-5.
After Tyson Chandler's bucket to start overtime, the Nets seized control with an 8-0 run, Jerry Stackhouse's three-pointer giving them the lead for good at 89-86. Gerald Wallace's layup with 2:20 left made it 92-86, and the Nets outscored the Knicks 12-5 in overtime.
"I just thought it was a big game in general for us," Nets point guard Deron Williams said. "The Knicks are a great team this year. They came in with a great record. Definitely, it's hard to deny the atmosphere and the media buzz around this game.''
Brook Lopez paced the Nets with 22 points, Williams had 16 points and 14 assists, and Wallace also had 16 points.
Carmelo Anthony had 35 points and 13 rebounds, and Chandler shot 12-for-13 and had 28 points. They were the only Knicks in double figures. Raymond Felton shot only 3-for-19 and committed five turnovers.
"It was unbelievable tonight," Anthony said. "It was a special place to play. It was a great game. We went into overtime. I think that's what everyone wanted to see. When it got to overtime, they made some shots and got it going and we ran out of gas."
Both teams had their shot in regulation to end it. Anthony missed a tough 16-foot jumper with 4.9 seconds to go, and the Nets collected the rebound with 3.6 seconds left. They called a timeout, but already had started advancing the ball and weren't able to inbound in the frontcourt. So Williams had to heave a shot from halfcourt, and the ball bounced off the right side of the rim.
But the Nets made enough big plays in overtime to squeeze past the Knicks and win their sixth straight home game.
"We can't just be excited like we won a championship," Williams said. "We didn't win the championship of New York. We won a game against a division rival and it was a great game for us."
Williams must have taken that cue from his coach.
"Like I told our team," Johnson said, "I'm happy for them, they deserved to win, they played hard. They played against an outstanding team that's a hot team, but there are no parades. There are no trophies right now. It's still early. But at the same time, this is a step in the right direction."