2006_11_snetslogo.jpg You'd think a 12-point lead with 3:43 to go would be safe. But this season's Knicks have been the masters at giving just enough late effort to barely lose, and that's what they did again Friday in a 101-100 loss to the Nets at the Garden. If not for Clifford Robinson's tip-in, the home team's surge might have paid off.

In some ways, this game reflects how the teams have played this season. The Nets have sometimes appeared careless en route to their 19-20 record, and the Knicks have worked hard but found their inconsistency a major problem. As local rivalries go, this one hasn't been too fierce, but it has been one-sided. The Nets have won 17 of the last 21 meetings between the two teams.

Anyone who watches the Nets can sense they're underachieving -- and possibly starting to come around -- but no one can get a good feeling about the status of the Knicks. In the Meadowlands, Jason Kidd is on pace to have his most balanced season. in Manhattan, Eddy Curry is enjoying a breakout year of sorts, but Friday he missed six straight free throws, including an airball. Who knows where the Knicks will turn out after this season, but as the halfway point nears, no one is that optimistic.