Kevin Durant was lying in the “Flatbush” but you knew he would emerge sooner or later.
The MVP candidate scored 11 of the Nets’ last 15 points and finished with 27 as Brooklyn scored an exciting 112-110 victory over the Knicks at Barclays Center last night.
James Johnson hit two free throws with 2.2 seconds left to give the Nets the lead but it was Durant who won the game for Brooklyn.
The Knicks were leading 98-97 with less than six minutes left when Durant went to work. The perennial all star scored the next six points as the Nets took a 103-102 lead with a little over three minutes left.
With 97 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Durant’s jumper gave Brooklyn a 107-105 lead. On the play, Julius Randle was called for a technical foul and Durant cashed in the free throw for a three point advantage.
The tech was the culmination of what the Knicks felt was an unfair amount of foul calls (21-14) that went Brooklyn’s way.
“I’m watching what’s going on both ways, they’re a good team they played well, but I know Julius was driving that ball pretty darn hard and I’m pissed,” coach Tom Thibodeau said after the game.
Randle feels he’s not getting a fair shake from the officials.
“Everyone saw what happened. There aint no need for me to talk on it, you all saw what happened,” Randle said after the game. When a reporter asked him if this (not getting calls) was an ongoing thing, Randle said, “Yep, yep.”
Randle’s dunk cut the lead to one but Durant hit two more free throws to make it 110-107. Evan Fournier hit a clutch three pointer with 17.7 seconds left to tie the game at 110 but on the Nets’ final possession, the ball went to Durant but he was double teamed and he found Johnson cutting in the lane. Mitchell Robinson fouled Johnson, who made two free throws to ice the game.
The Knicks had no timeouts left and Fournier missed a desperation 45 foot shot as time expired.
Harden came out on fire as he scored 15 points in the first quarter as Brooklyn took a 33-28 lead after one.
The Knicks outscored the Nets 33-27 in the second quarter to grab a 61-60 lead at halftime. That was the good news. The bad news was that, even though the Knicks had the lead, Durant had only six points on 2 for 9 shooting so it was inevitable that he would get going.
Even with Durant struggling, the Nets came out on fire in the second half with a 14-0 run to take a 74-61 lead. The lead ballooned to 84-68 with a little over four minutes left in the third quarter before the Knicks started to make their move to get back in the game.
To their credit, the Knicks hung in there, began to get better shots and tightened up defensively as they used a 16-4 run to make it an 88-84 deficit after three.
A highly competitive fourth quarter featured ten lead changes but the Knicks fell short and dropped to 11-10. The Nets improved to 15-6 as they have now won 8 of their last 10.
Kemba Walker is out of the rotation so Alec Burks made his first start at point guard. In the early going, Burks seemed in-between as far as whether to facilitate or shoot, but he got going and finished with a team high 25 points.
Julius Randle had 24 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists while Derrick Rose had 16 points and 9 assists off the bench.
R.J. Barrett was questionable with an illness (not Covid) but he started and could only go 9 minutes and left the game in the second quarter.
Harden finished with 34 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. Durant shot 9 of 23 and was 0 for 5 from three but he still filled the score sheet with 5 rebounds and 9 assists.
The Knicks shot 48% from the floor but only 34% (11 for 32) from three. Brooklyn wasn’t much better beyond the arc (8 for 28, 29%) but they had a huge advantage at the foul line. The Nets were 22 of 25 from the line while the Knicks were only 11 of 12.
“There’s a big discrepancy in free throws, I can tell you that and Julius is driving the ball and he gets two free throws?,” an exasperated Thibodeau said. “I don’t really care how the game’s called, I really don’t. You can call it tight, you call it loose, but it’s gotta be the same.”
Randle said the refs told him that he was too strong and that’s why he wasn’t getting the calls. “They said, with certain contact, it doesn’t affect me like it effects other players because I’m stronger, they miss the calls,” he said.
Randle knows he needs to put his emotions aside for the good of the team. “I’m just going to focus on continue to try to block that out,.” he said. “Play hard, play with energy, lead my team because I can’t let my techs being an effect of whether we win or lose.”