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James Harden, Kyrie Irving go for 55 as Nets avoid late-game collapse vs. Knicks

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Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

When you’re on a hot streak, you win games in a lot of different ways. And so, Monday’s game wasn’t pretty but the Nets got the job done and won their 13th in the last 14 and fifth in a row. A 117-112 loss may have been a moral victory for the Knicks, but it went in the win column for the Nets.

“A win is a win. We found a way to win the game and did enough to win the game. I told the guys, my only regret was we had a chance to be up 20-25 in the first half, we let them get back, and they cut the deficit at halftime. That can come back to bite you but it didn’t so we got it done in the end,” Nash said postgame. “We will have to learn from it, take a look at a few scenarios, and get better.”

In the process, James Harden and Kyrie Irving combined for 55 points doing what the NBA’s best backcourt does: Harden finished with 21 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists for his 10th triple-double, two short of Jason Kidd’s record in only 26 games. More significantly, it was the first 15/15/15 triple-double in Nets history and only 51st triple-15 in NBA history — and just the sixteenth in the last 25 years. It was his second.

Irving had another spectacular shooting and finishing night. By game’s end, he had 34 points on 13-of-18 shooting including 4-of-6 from deep. He is now just a few tenths of a percentage point from posting a 50/40/90 season, something only eight players have done in NBA history. (Steve Nash did it four times!)

Unfortunately, Brooklyn played a passive fourth quarter giving the Knicks some late-game life after being down 18 points earlier in the second half. Brooklyn held a five-point lead heading into the final minute of play. After a second successful challenge on a jump ball by New York’s master tactician, Tom Thibodeau, Julius Randle had a chance to tie the game but was called for a travel with 3.2, lured into it by Irving...

Harden sealed the deal by nailing two free throws to secure the win, 117-112.

Post-game, Randle was so incensed by the call that started heading toward on of the refs, only to be restrained by his teammates and Knicks staff.

Scott Foster, the NBA official who made the call, explained his decision to call a travel on Randle.

Whatever. The NBA will release its L2M report on the game’s last two minutes on Tuesday, but no matter what their conclusion, the win stands.

Post game, Steve Nash offered this assessment of what led up to the controversy.

“I don’t think we were that sharp defensively,” Nash said about the fourth-quarter play. “A few too many mistakes. We were fairly solid for the most part defensively but I thought there was a little stretch of lacked defense in the first half and a stretch down in the fourth quarter where we could have done a little better.

“We got the win, which is the most important thing. You tip your hat to the Knicks. They played hard and made it difficult for us but in the end, we got the win.”

With the win, the Nets improved to 27-13 on the season. Brooklyn holds a 2-0 season series lead over New York. Despite allowing their opponent to climb back for the second straight game, there were a good amount of positives in the win.

The Nets superstar, who has only played 26 games for Brooklyn, trails Jason Kidd by only two triple-doubles for the most in a single season by a Net.

While Harden had his fingerprints all over the victory, Kyrie Irving put on a box-office show against the Knicks. Irving now tied with Kevin Durant, who has played only 19 games this season, for most 30+ point games this season. Each has nine.

Brooklyn got big boosts from their “voice of reason,” Jeff Green. The veteran finished with 20 points in 35 minutes while Joe Harris followed with 13 points, including 3-of-8 from deep. The Nets bench contributed a total of 21 points in the win. Overall, Brooklyn shot 57.9 percent overall and 41.4 percent from deep.

“He was getting in on the short roll. He made a couple of nice floaters, made some threes tonight, and I think he was just smart in his roles,” Nash said on Green’s performance. “James made some beautiful passes to him for layups and dunks then, in the short roll, a couple of floaters, few threes. When you add it all up, he had a really efficient shooting night and also was our primary defender on Randle.”

Green took a shot during the win, which resulted in Green being taken out of the game for a couple of minutes, Nash confirmed he’s fine postgame.

“He took a heavy shot but he recovered and was able to finish the game.”

Following the win, Green spoke about the hit he took and noted how he needed a couple of minutes to regroup on the bench. Although the possible lingering, the Nets veteran does not want to make any excuses and deal with it.

“I’m good, I’m good, man. It’s something, I believe, may linger I don’t know,” Green said about the hit he took to his shoulder/back. “I just needed a little minute to gather myself and to just collect myself to get back on the floor. It is something that I will just need to continue to deal with and make the best out of it. That’s where it’s at now so I’m not going to give an excuse or complain about it. It is what it is.”

As for New York, they showed their grittiness as Randle finished with 33 points in 41 minutes followed by RJ Barrett, (Steve Nash’s godson) with 23 points in 35 minutes. The Knicks finished the loss shooting 40.2 percent overall and 35.7 percent from deep. New York falls to .500 on the season, holding a 20-20 record.

Both teams shot the ball well in the first period but the Nets held the edge, finishing the quarter of going small, outscored the Knicks in the paint 20-8.

The scoring for Brooklyn was led by Green, who scored 14 of the Nets 35 points in the first followed by Irving with 10 points in 11 minutes of play as the Nets entered the second up to five.

The Nets were clicking on all cylinders in the second as Harden began to flirt with his triple-double but Brooklyn struggled to protect the ball, turning over the ball four times in the opening half of the second — leaving the door open for New York ... for a moment. Brooklyn was getting wide-open looks consistently, ending the half shooting 64.1 percent overall, which and 42.9 percent from deep but they also recorded six turnovers (four from Harden).

Harden controlled the game while taking only nine shots in the first half. The Nets All-Star finished the half three rebounds shy of a triple-double - 11 points, 10 assists, and 7 rebounds in 18 minutes. Irving put on a mid-range clinic of 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting to go along with two assists and one rebound as Green led the Nets in scoring with 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting overall to put Brooklyn up 67-55.

To complement the Nets flowing offense, Brooklyn outscored New York 34-18 in the paint and outrebounded the Knicks 22-19 at the break. Brooklyn’s defense held New York to 37.5 percent shooting overall but 42.1 percent from deep, forcing four turnovers.

The Nets did not let go in the third but the Knicks continued to hang around. First, the Knicks got within 10 points in the early minutes of the quarter but the Nets answered with multiple silencers from downtown, growing their lead to a game-high 18 points. Despite each team tallying 29 points in the period, the Nets entered the final 12 with a commanding 96-84 lead. Or so they thought.

The Knicks grittiness and fight were present in the fourth quarter. New York came out firing, cutting the Nets lead to seven with 9:11 remaining. Brooklyn remained casual with the ball in the fourth. New York made it a game and cut the deficit to only four points with 4:29 to go. Then, the game got whacky at the end. New York made Brooklyn work for the win but the Nets escaped Barclays Center with the win.

With the win, the Knicks now hold only a one-game advantage over the Nets, 101-100, all time. In the nine seasons the two teams have played in the city, Brooklyn has won 18 of 34.

Now, let’s dive into some film.

The Film Room

Random question: What was the best meme of 2020? Tiger King? The ‘Karen’ frenzy? Maybe even the ‘Cold Bernie’ Sanders meme? There’s a lot to choose from in a year where most of us were stuck indoors without much to do but stare at our phones and connect virtually, but perhaps my (Matt here!) favorite was the “I took that personally” meme.

Which, fittingly, was how Kyrie Irving played against the crosstown rival, a team he had hit a jaw-dropping game-winner against just one season ago.

Kyrie crossed up BOTH members of New York’s backcourt of the future, Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett, in the first 24 minutes. Talk about efficient.

The crossover into a spin move? Plus the ambidextrous finish against New York’s promising rookie? Just ridiculous.

What’s the fun in one crossover when you can have TWO?

Outside of just filling the box score with 34 points and the highlight tapes with nutty crossovers, Irving did the little things as well. After Reggie Bullock hit three early threes, early made the point to stick to him like gorilla glue in transition to take away a fourth-attempt. Then, he made the game-clinching block/steal/whatever-you-wanna-call it on Julius Randle’s three to tie the game. When Irving is dialed in, he’s one of the ten best players in the league. Easily.

As Chris mentioned above, it wasn’t pretty. But the Nets got it done. Kyrie Irving was a big reason why.

A (film) shoutout to Nicolas Claxton

Okay, I lied. Film Room is not QUITE over. Here’s ONE last clip from Nicolas Claxton, who was particularly exceptional in his 16 minutes of action. Unlike his big performances against the Rockets or Spurs right before the break — in which he averaged 16.5 points, Clax didn’t necessarily fill up his tank with self-generated attempts off the dribble. Rather, he honored those Nets’ New Jersey roots and had his teammates... gas him up. (The worst pun I’ve made all year! There it is!!!)

Claxton’s approach was balanced, poetic in its statistical symmetry: six points, four rebounds, an assist, a steal, and two blocks. Those numbers just scream, “this guy does it ALL,” don’t they?

Steve Nash described Claxton as a strong dibble-handoff player after one of Nic’s first practices back from injury. That description has largely translated to reality since. After the Knicks trap James Harden in the pick-and-roll (as New York had been all night), Claxton breaks free for the sky-high alley-oop. Dude’s barely even looking at the rim on the finish!

One of the (K)Nic(k)’s came away victorious in this one. It wasn’t the one in a white, blue and orange.

Steve Nash on Blake Griffin: ‘We’re just trying to work on some of his physical deficiencies’

Prior to Monday’s game against the New York Knicks, Steve Nash provided an update on Blake Griffin, who is in a “ramp-up” process. The Nets coach noted how he is healthy enough to play but he is working with the performance team every day working on “physical deficiencies” related to his knee.

“I don’t know if he has played much 3-on-3 but, he practiced with us once coming out of the break. He’s working out every day,” Nash said. “He’s with the performance team every day and he’s continuing to ramp up. He’s healthy enough to play but we are just trying to work on some of his physical deficiencies to help out the knee and also ramp up his activity so he can have a safer return to play,” “We will keep monitoring it, keep building, and we’ll have him back at some point here.”

Nash did not provide a timetable for a return. Nor did Griffin in an interview with ESPN’s Malika Andrews but he did promise “vintage” dunks. Nash did not provide an update on Kevin Durant, who missed his 12th straight game due to his lingering left hamstring strain, once described as “mild.”

Kyrie Irving and James Harden weigh in on Nets vs. Knicks rivalry

Following the Nets win over the Knicks, Kyrie Irving and James Harden weighed in on the battle of the boroughs, providing their thoughts on the rivalry.

As for Irving, who grew up watching the New Jersey Nets play the Knicks, he recalled the rivalry was a “big thing” and noted the difference now that it is a cross-town rivalry now.

“As a kid, obviously New Jersey vs. New York - that was a big thing whether the Knicks were at Continental Airlines Arena or New Jersey was at MSG. Now that it’s Brooklyn versus New York, kind of the whole entire area. A lot of people I see on Instagram and Twitter, media outlets - this whole big thing but as players, we feel it naturally but obviously being from here, it’s a little bit of a different sentiment. I got to go home and be around Knicks and Nets fans. It’s basketball. It’s competition,” Irving said.

“It’s a world sport so it’s nothing but respect but obviously, you just want to come out here and have fun going against the New York Knicks. They’ve been playing well this season, a well-coached team, and appreciate the opportunity.”

Steve Nash noted on Saturday how the fans make a rivalry a rivalry. With the Barclays Center crowd limited to 10 percent capacity, which included the likes of Spike Lee and Bobby Shmurda,

Harden noted how he heard the Knick fans in the arena during the game. He is happy to be a part of the tradition.

“I got a little bit of a taste of it tonight. The New York fans, especially the Knick fans - you can hear them. I don’t know how many fans we had in the building total but you heard a lot of Knick fans. We under the tradition and I am just happy to be a part of the tradition, the rivalry, and this Nets team with the rhythm playing.”

Welcome back, Bobby Shmurda

Post-game, Harden signed his game-worn jersey and sent it over to Brooklyn rapper Bobby Shmurda following the win.

It seems the Knicks attempt to woo him with a big sign at MSG failed.

And the Oscar goes to ...

Will Kevin Durant follow Kobe Bryant to the Oscar stage on April 25? He’s halfway there.

Although many Nets have been credited in the past for Oscar-winning performances in getting foul calls, this would be first.

The third game between the Nets and Knicks will take place on April, 5 under the Barclays Center lights. The Nets hold a 2-0 season series lead. There are only three games between the rivals this season.

As Sponge Bog might say...

Per Will Hanley

What’s next

The Nets will return back to action when the team travels to Indiana to face Caris LeVert and the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, March 17. The game is set to tip at 7:00 PM ET.

Prior to Monday’s game against the Knicks, Steve Nash provided praise to the Nets former guard, saying he’s thrilled to see him back on the NBA hardwood. Speaking for the Nets organization, Nash said the Nets are rooting for him and want to see him thrive in the yellow and blue threads.

“We’re really proud Caris is returning to play there. He’s incredibly well-loved in this organization,” Nash said on LeVert. “World-class human being and a terrific basketball player. There is no doubt everyone here is rooting for him so to see him return to play and see him get his career going again is awesome. We miss him but we’re all rooting for him and want to see him thrive.”

For a different perspective, check out Posting and Toasting - our sister site covering the Knicks for SB Nation.