It took nearly three years but Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will finally share the Madison Square Garden hardwood together Wednesday night.
“First game ever,” said Irving after the Nets’ 118-105 win over the Rockets Tuesday night. Indeed, things have never worked out before what with injuries, illness and vaccine protest.
“You’re trying to make me go viral over here, man. You know how that series goes between us and the New York Knicks. And it’s been that way since I’ve been a fan of the Nets since I was a kid. So it’s going to be action-packed. It’ll be an exciting environment where you know what to expect,” Irving said. “It’s the Mecca, so what better way to close out your season, the final few games, playing in one of the most historic arenas in the world.
“We’ve got to bring it, and looking forward to it. Looking forward to the back and forth action. And I know the Knicks will be ready, so we’ve just got to be prepared. It’s about us.”
The “Battle of the Boroughs” matchup marks the fourth and final time the two teams will meet this season. The Nets hold a 3-0 season-series lead entering Madison Square Garden and are 9-6 against Atlantic Division competition overall this year. Brooklyn has also won the past six against New York and holds an all-time regular season record of 104-101 (109-108 including playoffs).
Meanwhile, the Knicks are 4-10 against fellow Atlantic Division play. In the last meeting between the two cross-town rivals, Durant scored a then career-high 53 points to lift Brooklyn to a 110-107 win on their home floor against the Knicks on March 13. In the second meeting back on February 16, the contest also came down to the wire, and the dagger was delivered by Cam Thomas, who cashed a deep step-back 3-Pointer over New York’s rookie, Quentin Grimes.
“I don’t think [MSG fans] want to say too many bad things because it’ll be two 50-balls if they try talking,” said Bruce Brown on the animosity directed towards Brooklyn’s superstar duo.
Brooklyn and New York will be heading in two different directions in less than a week. The Nets will embark on what could be a brutal Play-In Tournament bracket, hoping to fight their way into the NBA Playoffs. The Knicks, who are 6-4 in their last 10 games, will hit the offseason after being eliminated from playoff contention last week. Their next big date will be more ping-pong than bing-bong: the NBA Draft Lottery on May 17.
“It’s going to be big. It’s always a close game when we play them. So hopefully we can blow them out tomorrow,” Brown said. “It’s gonna be, what, the first game we play both Kai and KD. I know they’re gonna be super excited. The energy is going to be there. The juice is going to be there. We just got to go out there, execute, and win the game.”