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Kevin Durant lights up the Garden with 26 points as Nets defeat Knicks, 116-109

Brooklyn Nets v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

As it turned out, it wasn’t an afterthought. With four players on their way to other teams and another four hurt, James Harden’s new team could’ve been excused if they were distracted by the day’s events.

Instead, it was all Nets at Madison Square Garden as Brooklyn and their nine active players defeated the Knicks, 116-109. With the win, Brooklyn improves to 7-6 on the season (3-2 on the road) while New York falls to 5-7. The Nets have won both games in a back-to-back for the first time since November of 2019.

“A back-to-back and the fifth (game) in seven nights,” said a prideful Steve Nash. “They came out and were professional. Did a great job defensively. Moved the ball offensively. Made simple plays. Didn’t turn it over. Battle of the boards. Overall, I was really proud of how we played in what was a long week.”

Kevin Durant led the charge for Brooklyn, finishing with 26 points, three rebounds, and six assists in 30 minutes of play. With another dominant performance, KD achieved another milestone in Nets history setting the franchise record for consecutive 20-point games to start a season, nine straight. In addition, Durant has scored 25+ points in eight straight games, matching Bernard King (1978-79) for the Nets franchise record of 25+ points in consecutive games. Wednesday’s win over the Knicks marked the first time Durant has played in both games of a back-to-back since 2019.

“He looked pretty good to me!” explained Steve Nash. “He got to his spots. Continues to find his rhythm and made plays for his teammates again. Like I said before the season, I think it’s 15-20 games minimum for him to start to even consider, ‘where am I?’ He looks great and he’s going to continue to feel more and more comfortable.”

Aside from Durant’s consistent dominance, Steve Nash experimented with lineups throughout the game, giving minutes to his role players before James Harden arrives.

Bruce Brown glistened with confidence under the MSG lights, scoring 15 points, 14 rebounds, (!) and two assists in 30 minutes. His career-high 14 rebounds are the most rebounds snagged for a Nets guard since Sean Kilpatrick (14 rebounds) back in 2016.

“He plays extremely hard,” said Steve Nash post-game. “Prides himself on his defense. Offensively, he plays within himself. I’ve been really impressed with his finishing, his floaters, and making the defense pay for his cutting. When you have a guy like him that can guard multiple positions, he plays hard, he knows the gameplan, and he also knows where he shouldn’t put himself offensively, that’s really valuable.”

Despite struggling so far this season, Landry Shamet had what could be a get-back game in Wednesday’s win. Shamet finished with 13 points, one rebound, and five assists in 23 minutes of play, shooting 3-of-7 from deep.

Reggie Perry, who entered Wednesday’s win with 22 minutes and seven total points under his belt, played 22 minutes Wednesday, finishing with 11 points and five rebounds. The 57th pick in this year’s Draft also swished his first NBA three-pointer in the win. Perry spelled starter DeAndre Jordan who looks to be in the starter’s slot with Jarrett Allen now in Cleveland. Jordan, looking spry, finished with nine points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and two assists.

“Love what Reggie brought today,” said Kevin Durant. “You got a dog over there. With Julius Randle, we just told him to guard up. You not gonna send too much help, and I think he did a solid job just putting a body in front of him. Also rebounding the ball and finishing around the rim. Reggie plays like a seasoned vet it seems like. He’s still learning every single day, but he has that toughness that’s gonna allow him to make plays on the floor.”

Nets finished the win with seven players in double-figures. As a team, Brooklyn shot 48.4 percent overall and 40.0 from deep. Brooklyn outrebounded New York 46-43 in the win.

As for the Knicks, Julius Randle finished with 30 points, seven rebounds, and five assists in 40 minutes followed by Nash’s godson, RJ Barrett, who scored 20 points in 38 minutes. The two Canadians joined up post-game with a couple of big hugs.

After Obi Toppin, the Knicks much-hyped rookie left the game after playing 57 seconds, fans wondered if he had reinjured his calf.

Film Room

You know what I love about the NBA? When one door closes, anoth... ––you know the rest. With James Harden headed to Brooklyn, TBD, the Nets were working with a reduced roster against the rival from across the pond. No Caris LeVert now with Indiana. No Jarrett Allen and No Taurean Prince, both now with Cleveland. No Rodions Kurucs now with Houston.

And no problem.

Bruce Brown took his big opportunity by the horns, showing his oh-so-insatiable hunger on the glass 14 successful times while lofting that ceiling-touching floater like a catapult to the tune of a 15 points.

But it wasn’t just Bruce Brown who made the most of their minutes amidst a shorthanded rotation. Reggie Perry, Brooklyn’s 2020 second-round draft pick, showcased that irrefutable comfortability that made him such a bright spot during the preseason. Here, Bruce Brown and Perry execute a perfect pick-and-pop. You love to see the dish from Bruce Brown, sure. That’s a potential area of growth for the 24-year-old. BUT LOOK AT REGGIE PERRY UNLOADING THE CLIP FROM DEEP!

Dare I say it: That shooting form looks pretty, pretty good! Elbows are tucked. His torso is balanced. His feet face toward the basket. He dips the ball appropriately to trigger the rest of his shooting rhythm. Nifty stuff!

Furthermore, with a unique roster comes unique sets. For example: Have yourself a taste of a Landry Shamet-Chris Chiozza pick-and-pop! Pretty nutty, huh?

Most of Brooklyn’s pick-and-rolls have involved a ball-handler and a big (i.e. DeAndre Jordan, Jeff Green, Kevin Durant, etc). But with a jumbled group of players available against the Knicks, the guys in white jerseys freestyled on the fly with a guard-guard PnP. Sweet skip-pass, Cheese!

Seriously, you gotta love when NBA rotations get capital-W WEIRD. This is certainly the season for that, too.

Nets-Knick rivalry alive and well?

...oooooor maybe not. At least, not according to veteran center DeAndre Jordan.

“I don’t think that we’re trying to look too much into rivalries,” chuckled DeAndre Jordan. “If we’re just trying to ‘win New York’ then our goals are very low. No disrespect to those guys at all. Not every team has championship aspirations, and that’s where our head is at.”

His fellow 4AM FaceTime buddy, Kevin Durant, pushed back on that notion. Durant, who was rumored to the Knicks for a majority of his final season in Golden State, lit a match to the gasoline of the New York basketball rivalry.

“Most definitely,” said Durant, plainly. “Having no fans in these arenas is taking away the whole NBA experience for sure. The Mecca of basketball, the Garden; for them to not have fans, especially with this rivalry and how much tension between both teams fanbases. Definitely missed the fans tonight... Down the line, I know these battles will be tough. It’s about New York City right now. Brooklyn Nets versus New York Knicks is always going to be a good draw.”

What’s next

The Nets look to win their third straight game when the team hosts the Orlando Magic on Saturday, January 16. The game is set to tip-off at 6:00 PM and will be broadcasted on YES Network.

How soon will we see James Harden? Not soon. Once the trade is official, Harden will have to travel to Brooklyn and quarantine. The Nets play Orlando on Saturday, Milwaukee on Monday, Martin Luther King Day. Also, look for the Nets to fill three roster spots created by the trade.

For a different perspective, head over to Poasting and Toasting, our sister site on SB Nation.