Kyrie Irving out. James Harden not yet available. On the heels of the blockbuster trade that brought Harden to the Barclays Center, the shorthanded Brooklyn Nets fought off a late New York rally to edge the Knicks 116-109. Kevin Durant was still there, and he was more than Brooklyn needed as he powered the Nets with 26 points. It was the fourth loss in a row for the Knicks (5-7) after a promising 5-3 start.
Brooklyn (7-6) was missing Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert, Taurean Prince and Rodions Kurocs, who were all part of the Harden deal. Irving was listed out for personal reasons for the fifth straight game. Even with only nine players dressed, the Nets has enough weapons to outlast the Knicks.
The game was tight in the first quarter as Julius Randle again did his best to keep the Knicks competitive. Randle had the hot hand early as he scored 12 points in the first quarter and 17 in the half. Immanuel Quickley came off the bench and regained his shooting stroke as he contributed eight first half points, including knocking down a pair of three-pointers.
The Nets led 26-25 after a quarter, but the Knicks stayed close for most of the half. However, leading 46-43, Brooklyn went on a 15-2 run to lead 61-46 at the break. The Knicks shot just 39% from the field in the first half to 47% for the Nets.
New York coach Tom Thibodeau has said several times during the young season that you don’t have to shoot well to play well. As the Knicks again struggled to hit shots, you could see their energy on defense diminish.
“Disappointed that we could’ve played better defensively, yes, but more determined to get it right,’’ Thibodeau said. “I like the fight we showed at the end, but it was too late. We got in too big of a hole. We have to get back to work. Sometimes you go through stretches where you don’t have an opportunity to practice too much, so I think practice would be good for us.”
Meanwhile, Durant who scored 12 points in the first half, started to really cook in the third. He scored 12 points in the stanza, showing off his three-point shooting and his mid-range game. The teams played even in the quarter 31-31, but that left the Knicks still down 92-76 heading to the fourth.
Brooklyn led by as much as 19 in the final period and 18 with 3:23 left. The Knicks went on a late spurt to cut the deficit to eight with 58 seconds to go and 114-107 with 22.8 remaining. After a pair of missed Brooklyn free throws, a Mitchell Robinson put-back pulled the Knicks within 114-109. A pair of Landry Shamet foul shots closed it out for the Nets.
Randle had another oustanding performance for the Knicks with a game-high 30 points. He also had seven rebounds and five assists. RJ Barrett broke out of his recent slump by scoring 20 points.
There were several postive signs for New York. It was the first time in four games the Knicks have scored out of the 80s. Quickley scored 19 points off the bench in 22 minutes after regressing the last three games. And Kevin Knox came off the bench to contribute 13 points. Mitchell Robinson finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Obi Toppin returned to the Knicks lineup for the first time since opening night, but left after only 57 seconds.
The Knicks return to action on Friday night when they travel to Cleveland to battle the Cavaliers.
(Brad Penner/Pool Photo via AP)