Brooklyn won the game and lost James Harden. – again.
The Nets beat the Knicks 114-112 against a mixed crowd of 1,773 at the Barclays Center, completing a season sweep over their rival. They started the game short-staffed and ended it decimated, but victorious.
Playing without Kevin Durant (plus Tyler Johnson, Landry Shamet and Blake Griffin), the Nets saw Harden come out with another hamstring pain in the first quarter. But Kyrie Irving, the last man standing for the Brooklyn Big Three, took over and dominated the night with 40 points and seven assists.
Brooklyn (35-16) rallied from a 14-point deficit and moves ½ game ahead of Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference. The Knicks fell to 25-26.
The crowd was quite divided, roaring whenever either team was in a race. And while the Knicks were excited by the slant of the rivalry, the Nets have other priorities.
“To be honest, we’re so focused on ourselves, trying to get through this stretch where we’ve had players in and out of the lineup that we’re really looking inward right now and trying to see how we can handle this period and also if we can keep improving, “said head coach Steve Nash. “It’s not like we’re in a matchup in a season where there are fans and we’ve had a great health streak and here we are and there’s a reason to get up for this. We have many reasons to stand up for this. We have a roster that is changing due to injuries and all that, so we’re really just trying to focus on how we can put together a good performance.
The Knicks fell to 0-3 this season against Brooklyn, despite a vigorous effort. RJ Barrett, Nash’s godson, had 22 points, the team’s highest. Reggie Bullock had 21 and Julius Randle had 19 points, 15 rebounds and a dozen assists, but missed the potential tie on the buzzer.
“There is pride in every game,” Tom Thibodeau said. “You enter the game, you know they have talent. We have to be ready to play for 48 minutes. It is difficult to get victories on the road. You can’t let your guard down. “
The annoying Knicks looked hungry as they took an 86-75 lead with 4:37 to play in the third. But the Nets rode a 20-5 streak that spanned periods to take a four-point lead with 9:52 left.
Brooklyn limited the Knicks to just 2 of 10 shots with five turnovers, as many as they had forced in the first 32 minutes.
The Knick tied on an Alec Burks 3-pointer with 26 seconds left. But Jeff Green (23 points, season high) struggled on the inside for an offensive rebound from a Joe Harris miss, gaining an offensive rebound and a pair of 3.7 ticks clear of free throws in regulation time.
The Nets had led 51-50 on a Jeff Green free throw with 3:17 remaining in the second quarter.
But a pair of steals by Taj Gibson helped trigger the Knicks’ transition offense and a game-changing 17-2 run.
The Knicks made five shots in a row, including three from behind the arc. And by the time Reggie Bullock hit a triple with 55.8 seconds left at the half, the Nets were down 67-53.
Brooklyn was still down 86-75 after RJ Barrett’s jump shot with 4:37 left in the third; but they struggled to climb back into the fourth. The Nets closed the period on a 14-2 streak, dogging the Knicks on 1 of 6 shooting with four turnovers.
When the Nets needed defensive stops, they got some.
A pair of Harris baskets pushed the lead to 95-91. And a ten-foot bench shot put Brooklyn ahead 102-94 with 6:58 left in the fourth. They almost had to deal with overtime as the Knicks tied at 112 overall.
But Green got the game by winning free throws and they got the save they needed.