Nets pay big James Harden price in close win over Knicks

Brooklyn won the game and lost James Harden. — again. The Nets beat the Knicks 114-112 before a mixed crowd of 1,773 at Barclays Center, completing a season sweep of their rival. They started

Brooklyn won the game and lost James Harden. — again.

The Nets beat the Knicks 114-112 before a mixed crowd of 1,773 at Barclays Center, completing a season sweep of their rival. They started the game shorthanded and ended it decimated – but victorious.

Playing without Kevin Durant (as well as Tyler Johnson, Landry Shamet and Blake Griffin), the Nets saw Harden go out with another sore hamstring in the first quarter. But Kyrie Irving, the last man standing of Brooklyn’s Big Three, took over and dominated the evening with a game-high 40 points and seven assists.

Brooklyn (35-16) came back 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 fairly evenly split, roaring whenever either team was on a run. And while the Knicks were fired up for the rivalry tilt, the Nets have other priorities.

“To be honest, we’re so focused on ourselves, trying to get ourselves through this stretch where we’ve had guys in and out of the lineup that we’re really just focusing inward at the moment and trying to see how we can manage this period and also if we can continue to improve,” head coach Steve Nash said. “It’s not as if we’re in a matchup in a season where there’s fans and we’ve had a great run of health and here we are and there’s a reason to get up for this. We have plenty of reasons to get up for this. We have a roster that’s in flux with injury and whatnot, so we’re really just trying to focus on how we can put a good performance together.”

The Knicks fell to 0-3 this season against Brooklyn, despite a spirited effort. RJ Barrett – the godson of Nash – had a team-high 22 points. Reggie Bullock had 21 and Julius Randle 19 points, 15 boards and a dozen assists, but missed the potential tying shot at the buzzer.

“There’s pride in every game,” said Tom Thibodeau.“You go into the game, you know they are talented. We have to be ready to play for 48 minutes. It’s hard to get wins on the road. You can’t let your guard down.”

James Harden driving against the Knicks on Monday.
Corey Sipkin

The upset-minded Knicks looked hungry in taking an 86-75 lead with 4:37 left in the third. But the Nets mounted a 20-5 run that spanned the periods to take a four-point lead with 9:52 left.

Brooklyn held the Knicks to just 2-of-10 shooting with five turnovers – as many as they’d forced through the first 32 minutes.

The Knick pulled even on a 3-pointer by Alec Burks with 26 seconds left. But Jeff Green (season-high 23 points) fought inside for an offensive rebound off a Joe Harris miss, earning an offensive rebound and pair of go-ahead free throws with 3.7 ticks in regulation.

The Nets had led 51-50 on a Jeff Green free throw with 3:17 left in the second quarter.

But a pair of Taj Gibson steals helped spark the Knicks’ transition offense and a game-changing 17-2 run.

The Knicks hit five straight shots, including three from behind the arc. And by the time Reggie Bullock drained a 3-pointer with 55.8 seconds remaining in the half, the Nets found themselves down 67-53.

Brooklyn was still down 86-75 after an RJ Barrett jumper with 4:37 to play in the third; but they fought back to climb back ahead entering the fourth. The Nets closed the period on a 14-2 run, harassing the Knicks into 1-of-6 shooting with four turnovers.

When the Nets needed defensive stops, they got some.

A pair of Harris buckets pushed the lead to 95-91. And a ten-foot pullup bank shot put Brooklyn ahead 102-94 with 6:58 left in the fourth. They nearly had to deal with an overtime, as the Knick pulled even at 112-all.

But Green got the game winning foul shots, and they got the stop they needed.

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Brian Lewis

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