NEW YORK — At least the New York Knicks can say they won a city championship.
Only the Brooklyn Nets have a chance to compete for a real one — though they’d better play a lot better than this.
Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 16 points and the Knicks, playing without the injured Carmelo Anthony, beat the Nets 109-98 on Tuesday night to win the season series between city rivals.
And in an otherwise massively disappointing season, apparently local bragging rights do matter.
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“Hell yeah,” Knicks guard J.R. Smith said. “I mean, I’m cool with some of those guys over there, so I can still say something when we’re in the gym this summer. As long as I can say they didn’t beat us that many times, we’re good.”
The Knicks prevented the Nets from clinching the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and won their third straight in their too-little, too-late strong finish. Amare Stoudemire and Smith each scored 14 points.
Anthony had an MRI exam Tuesday that revealed a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He won’t play Wednesday against Toronto, the final game of the first season in his 11-year career that won’t end with a playoff berth — and potentially his last as a member of the Knicks. He has said he will become a free agent in July.
Marcus Thornton scored 24 points for the Nets, who weren’t sharp despite playing starters Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. The other starter, Shaun Livingston, remained out with a sprained right big toe.
“Tonight was an example of how not to take a step forward. We were off our game offensively, defensively, all phases of the game and that’s not how you want to go into the playoffs,” Pierce said.
The Nets wore their Brooklyn Dodgers-inspired gray uniforms on Jackie Robinson Day. He debuted for the Dodgers as the first black player in the major leagues on this date in 1947.
Pierce became the sixth player in NBA history to score 1,000 points in 15 straight seasons, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19), Karl Malone (18), John Havlicek (16), Elvin Hayes (15) and Robert Parish (15).
• Blake Griffin scored 24 points while picking up his 16th technical, and the Los Angeles Clippers led all the way in beating the visiting Denver Nuggets 117-105 for their franchise-record 57th victory of the season.
Los Angeles will have to get by without Griffin on the road since his 16th tech triggered a league-mandated one-game suspension.
Unless the league rescinds the tech, he will miss the Clippers’ regular-season finale at Portland.
Aaron Brooks, the former Franklin High star, scored 19 but had nine turnovers for Denver.
• Twenty-five years and 1,042 victories (eighth best in history) since he coached his first NBA game, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Rick Adelman, 67, is expected to walk away from the sideline after Wednesday’s regular-season finale into retirement and toward a place in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
When he does, he will do so with almost no fanfare, without even the public presentation of a single rocking chair to wish him well.
He could quite simply — given his silence about the matter in this season’s final weeks — just walk off into the mist.
“You know what? That’s him,” said Timberwolves guard Kevin Martin, who has played for Adelman in Sacramento, Houston and Minnesota. “That’s how he has always been. It has worked for him. That’s probably how he would want it.”
• Cleveland forward Luol Deng has won the J. Walter Kennedy Award, given annually to an NBA player for community service.
Deng has had a long commitment to philanthropic work in his native South Sudan. His recent public service announcement for EnoughProject.org urges peace in his homeland. Deng also established a charitable foundation in Britain, which granted his family political asylum.