MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 20: Head coach Tom Thibodeau of the Minnesota Timberwolves looks on during the game against the Utah Jazz on October 20, 2017 at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Timberwolves defeated the Jazz 100-97. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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Kevin Durant’s smooth night gives the Nets a win over the New York Knicks, capping off a big day in Brooklyn.

Danny Small

Well, the first meeting of the year between the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets was completely overshadowed by the blockbuster trade for James Harden that broke on Wednesday afternoon. The Beard is reuniting with his old teammate Kevin Durant and the Nets are about to be must-watch basketball.

But while they wait for Harden’s arrival (and Kyrie Irving‘s return), they still had to play the Knicks on Wednesday. Durant’s star shined bright in a 116-109 victory in an empty Madison Square Garden.

No comment on the James Harden trade

The James Harden to Brooklyn news dropped shortly before the pregame press conferences for Tom Thibodeau and Steve Nash. Both coaches avoided commenting on the trade due to the fact that it was not finalized at the time.

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O Kyrie, Where Art Thou?

Now that Harden is coming to join the Nets, is it finally time for Kyrie Irving to resurface? The star point guard is currently on a break from his playing duties and the Nets don’t seem to have any idea when he is going to return to the team.

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Julius Randle was cooking early

Julius Randle continues to play the best basketball of his career. The offense in New York leaves a lot to be desired right now, but it’s because of Randle. He’s averaging career-highs across the board and put up 30 points for the second time this season.

Thibodeau should consider tweaking the lineup around Randle and RJ Barrett going forward. Elfrid Payton’s lack of shooting is killing the offensive flow in the starting lineup. Inserting Kevin Knox and shifting Barrett into more of an on-ball role could help open things up in a big way.

Either way, Randle is still cooking.

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Kevin Durant is still Kevin Durant

It wasn’t his most flashy performance, but Kevin Durant was Kevin Durant on Wednesday night. Irving’s obvious absence coupled with trading away two key rotational players made it clear that Durant would need to be the alpha.

He was.

Durant dropped 12 points in the first half and 12 more in the third quarter en route to a cool 26 points in 30 minutes. This was his first back-to-back he played since rupturing his Achilles in the 2019 NBA Finals. It was easy money for KD.

We’re substituting a video for a gif tonight. This pass from Chris Chiozza to Durant is well worth it.

Too little, too late

The Knicks were down 18 with 3:40 to go in the fourth quarter. The Nets began packing it in, but the Knicks refused to roll over and die. New York embarked on a 14-1 run to cut the lead down to five.

However, it was too little, too late and the comeback ran out of time. It’s a positive sign to see this “never say die” attitude, but a loss is a loss. The Knicks have four of those in a row and drop to 5-7 on the season.

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Player of the game: Kevin Durant

Randle put up the better counting stats, but the player of the game is going to someone on the winning team. That is obviously Durant. There were plenty of Net contributors like Bruce Brown, Landry Shamet, DeAndre Jordan, Reggie Perry, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Joe Harris — so basically the entire team — but Durant was the engine for Brooklyn.

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