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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

James Harden and Kevin Durant stepped up as the Nets beat the Knicks in a nailbiter

There is a rivalry between the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets. It’s a bit more difficult to define than the other professional sports rivalries in town, but there is definitely something there.

Barclays Center was rocking with Nets and Knicks fans on Tuesday night. Those fans should consider themselves lucky. The stars were shining bright as the Nets took the first installment of the Battle of the Boroughs, 112-110.

James Harden snapped out of his funk with 34 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, and three steals. Most of his damage, including 28 of his points, came in the first half. Harden’s early heroics were necessary because it took Kevin Durant a while to warm up in this one.

But when he warmed up, he got hot. After shooting 2-for-9 from the floor and only scoring six points in the first half, Durant erupted for 21 points in the second. The Knicks made his life difficult, but it’s hard to slow Durant down for a full 48 minutes. There isn’t a better 1-on-1 scorer in the NBA. Eventually, he’s going to figure the defense out.

For the Knicks, Julius Randle is finally starting to look like the 2020-21 All-Star version of himself. He fell just short of a triple-double with 24 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists.


However — and this is a big “however” — Randle’s technical foul in the closing minutes of the game is inexcusable.

Inexcusable.

In a tie game, Durant hit a mid-range jumper over the outstretched hand of Randle. How did the Knicks’ leader react? By drawing a technical foul and giving the Nets a three-point lead with 1:36 left to play.

The Knicks made a few buckets and had a chance to win on an Evan Fournier halfcourt heave, but they could never regain the lead when it mattered.

Again, it’s inexcusable and gives Randle’s otherwise great night a bad aftertaste. Although it might not be the reason the Knicks lost, it’s definitely reason they lost.

Maybe Knicks fans can take pride in the fact that they took over Barclays Center to the point where Harden acknowledged them.

Other Notes

  • Alec Burks led all Knicks scorers with 25 points. It’s safe to say he’s going to be a fixture in the starting lineup for the foreseeable future.
  • RJ Barrett left the game due to a non-COVID illness after playing a few short bursts. He finished with four points and four rebounds.
  • Derrick Rose, Immanuel Quickley, and Obi Toppin combined for 36 points off the bench.
  • Rookie Cam Thomas scored 12 points in 21 minutes off the bench. He was the first substitution for head coach Steve Nash in both halves.
  • James Johnson only scored seven points, but he drilled two free throws in the final seconds to give the Nets the 112-110 victory.
  • The Knicks will face the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night.
  • The Nets will have two days off before welcoming the red-hot Minnesota Timberwolves to Brooklyn on Friday.
Knicks, Nets, NY/NJ college hoops, and sports betting reporter. Mostly basketball, but a little bit of everything when it comes to NY sports. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.