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Nets pull out another 20+ point comeback at MSG, defeating Knicks, 110-98

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

Twenty down against the Knicks? Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets!

The Brooklyn Nets looked down and out but the team had another 20+ point comeback on the Madison Square Garden hardwood in the cards.

“Yeah, I think exceeded the expectations honestly just based on how our bodies felt going into this game,” said Kyrie Irving about his Nets, who were fresh off a back-to-back against Houston. “And I knew we needed every little effort that we could get from everybody... Started sacrificing our bodies out there a little bit and the results speak for themselves.”

After trailing by 21 points in the third, the Nets stormed back and escaped with a much-needed victory over their cross-town rival to hold control of their own destiny. The final score: 110-98. With the win, Brooklyn sweeps the season series against New York and holds sole possession of the eighth seed with the seventh seed, the Cavaliers, coming to Brooklyn Friday. It was also the second time the Nets had come back from a 21+ point deficit against the Knicks, having come back from a 28-point deficit on February 16.

“The satisfying part is knowing that we have this fight in us, we have what we have in the locker room, and we all believe and understand that we have what we need to get the job done on any given night, as well as knowing that we can be the last team standing,” said Patty Mills after the 110-98 win against the Knicks Wednesday night.

Here are the standings at the close of business Wednesday...

It was a game of two halves for the Nets. After an undisciplined first half defensively, Brooklyn locked down defensively in the second half, allowing only 31 points. Their 10-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter was quickly erased and Kevin Durant’s 13 points, nine rebounds, and six assists in the final frame, mixed with timely 3-pointers from Patty Mills and Seth Curry put the stamp on yet another comeback at MSG.

“It was very unsatisfying for a while. I’m proud of the group. We didn’t play well in the first half. We didn’t give the requisite fight, spirit, or energy. We had some good looks but didn’t make them. I thought the second half, you can just see them take the challenge,” said Steve Nash on the 110-98 win. “We needed all of it. We gave the effort in the second half that it takes and played a much better game.”

Durant finished the final cross-town rivalry contest between the two teams with a monstrous triple-double of a game-high 32 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, one steal, two blocks, and a team-high four turnovers in 42 minutes. He shot 11-of-22 from the field and 2-of-10 from 3-Point range. Irving, who hit a pair of timely shots in the second half, tallied 24 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, three steals, and three turnovers in 43 minutes. It was the first time the two superstars, the remaining players from the Clean Sweep, had played together at the Garden.

The Nets supporting cast stepped up late when it mattered. Curry shot 5-of-10 from the field and 3-of-7 from 3-point range to finish with 15 points, two boards, and two assists in 30 minutes. Mills, who shot the ball very well after a prolonged shooting slump that stretched over two months, concluded with 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting from deep, to lead the bench.

“It’s just great to see the ball go in the basket for him. You hate to see him suffer like he has recently. To see him make the shot that sealed the game, it felt good because he deserves it,” said Nash on Mills’ revived shooting performance. “He works really hard and he’s been a soldier for this team.”

The Nets started Irving, Curry, Durant, Bruce Brown, and Andre Drummond to open the contest. Brooklyn got a big boost early from Curry, who hit his first three threes, to get the offense going but it was, once again, the defensive end that kept the Knicks within striking range. At the 5:00 mark of the first, the Nets trailed 15-14.

Out of a Brooklyn timeout, Nash’s first two reserves off the bench — Nic Claxton and Kessler Edwards — pushed a 6-0 burst resulting in Tom Thibodeau calling a timeout at the 4:05 mark with his team trailing by five. Although Edwards’ hit two triples in the frame and provided a stretch of valuable transition defense, Nash went big with the lineup and the Knicks responded with a 10-0 run — a run that included two triples, rebounds that led to early offense (12 points in transition for New York) and the period was topped off by a coast-to-coast drive by RJ Barrett. After one, Brooklyn trailed New York, 29-25.

“I think the big lineups struggled, frankly,” Nash said. “Just going small allowed us to score the ball. We were more than surviving defensively. You just kinda go with it. Nic got in foul trouble and we decided to put Bruce in, go small, and play with a little more pace, a little more freedom, a little more space on the floor, and see if we could survive defensively.”

The Knicks' scoring run dragged into the second quarter, ballooning to 19-0 before it was snapped by an Irving triple. The Nets’ offense remained cold in the opening minutes of the second, but the Knicks continued to get the ball under the rim in early offense situations. That led to easy finishes or kicked out 3-Pointers. At the 7:01 mark, Miles McBride’s 3-Pointer for the left corner resulted in Nash calling a timeout with Brooklyn trailing by 13.

New York continued to shoot the lights out from behind the arc as the quarter progressed. The Knicks got good looks in the early offense and out of Net doubles down low. New York consistently kicked it out to shooters along the perimeter. It resulted in a 12-2 run that boosted the Knicks lead to 17 with just over two minutes left. Brooklyn failed to get hot late to make a dent in their deficit, hitting the halftime break trailing by 17 points (67-50) — the largest lead for New York in the first half.

Brooklyn’s first half play ended with Irving scoring 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting overall. He was the only Net in double-figures at the break. Meanwhile, Barrett and Alec Burks combined for 34 points. As a team, the Nets shot 41.3 percent overall and 27.8 percent from 3-Point range while their defense allowed the Knicks to shoot 47.9 percent from the field and 42.3 percent from deep.

“It was a game of two halves for us. In the first half, we didn’t play the Nets brand of basketball. The stuff that we preach about and execute in practice every day. I thought the second half is who we are: 31 points (second-half points allowed), playing small, switching stuff, making second and third efforts, getting out and running. It was one of those nights,” Durant said. “I’m glad our shots started to fall there because we had good energy on the defensive side of the ball. It’s more about habits and I like the habits we had in the second half.”

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

Brooklyn’s deficit reached 21 points but the team started to find some rhythm after the opening minutes of the second half. That rhythm was stunned by their undisciplined fouling against the Knicks that put the Nets in the bonus at the 7:16 mark of the third.

“It’s risky. I hate being down and being that team; get down and fight back. I don’t like that sh*t. I don’t want that to be a part of who we are,” said Durant on falling down by 20+ points. “For us, it’s about sticking together, making the right play regardless of the score, and defensively, being on the same page. We had good spirit in the second half.”

The Nets couldn’t contain Jericho Sims on either end of the floor. The Knickerbocker rookie outdueled Brooklyn on the boards and came up with a series of big blocks to further halt the sparks of momentum on the Nets' side. At the 4:09 mark of the third, the Knicks' lead stood at 78-62, but the Nets controlled all the remaining minutes. Brooklyn got some shots to fall off the hands of their two stars, forging a 10-2 run to hit the fourth quarter with a 10-point deficit (82-72), outscoring New York, 22-15, in the frame. The 15 points allowed are a season-best in the third quarter all year.

Brooklyn’s scoring run erupted in the fourth, extending to a 25-4 run. After a tip-in by Edwards off an Irving 26-foot triple miss, the Nets had their first lead (85-84 at the 10:01 mark) since the closing minutes of the first quarter. Shortly after the storming comeback, Brooklyn, once again, got New York into the bonus very early in the quarter (7:10 mark).

Instead of giving Durant a breather midway through the fourth, Nash went small and put him at the center. The coach left both of his stars in the contest to finish it out, playing the entire fourth quarter. Durant consistently got open looks off off-ball screens as Barrett struggled to get through. After a midrange jumper by Durant, the Nets were up by two (98-96) with 4:13 left. And then in the fourth quarter, the Nets went into fourth gear.

An Irving triple boosted the lead to five points entering the final two minutes of action, which was followed up by a 28-foot 3-pointer by Curry to forge a 10-0 run and expand the lead to eight. Mills’ fifth three of the game served as the dagger in Brooklyn’s 21-point comeback win, and Irving waved goodbye to the MSG crowd.

“Man, I just needed to let loose of some of that energy. We were in a hole throughout most of the game. I just kept telling our guys, ‘it’s our game. It’s our game.’ When you believe in that mantra, good things can either go your way. We know we could play better and waving to the crowd was just like, we’ll see you guys next year.”

Or as Nash said post-game...

Milestone Watch

The Nets outscored the Knicks 60-31 in the second half. The 31 points are the fewest allowed by Brooklyn in any half this season. In two second halves at Madison Square Garden this season, Brooklyn outscored New York 127-72 (+55).

With the Nets’ win tonight:

—Franchise record 24th road win of the season

—Seventh straight win vs. the Knicks (longest win streak vs. New York since 2/25/84 - 3/1/86 - 11 straight)

—Brooklyn has picked up two comeback wins from 20+ down this season: both games at the Knicks.

Kevin Durant (game-high 32 points) recorded his 24th 30-point game of the season, tied with Vince Carter (2004-05) for the second-most in a season in the franchise’s NBA history. Carter holds the record (25), done in the 2006-07 season. It is in danger.

Despite Patty Mills 5-of-7 shooting, key to the win, it doesn’t look like he’ll match D’Angelo Russell’s franchise record for most three’s in a season. With two games left, Mills is at 223, still 12 shy of DLo’s 234 in 2018-19.

The Nets now hold a 105-101 advantage all-time in the series between the two teams, 110-108 when including post-season. The Nets have now won seven consecutive games in the rivalry.

The Nets trailed by as many as 21 points in the 3rd quarter tonight and came back to win against the Knicks, 110-98. They become the fourth team in the last 25 years with multiple 20-point comebacks vs a single team. Brooklyn also beat New York on February 16th after trailing by 28.

And allow us our final milestone of the night (and it our milestone): Not long after the game ended, NetsDaily passed 50,000 followers on Twitter. So we’d like to thank all our great writers over the years as well as those fans who decided to follow us. We hope we can continue to earn that trust.

The Film Room

Kevin Durant called this one a “tale of two halves” in his postgame presser. Well said, Kev.

Act I of Brooklyn’s performance against the Knicks was a full medley of the issues that have plagued the Nets during the recent stretch — a slew of games that have dimmed the once-boastful championship expectations of Brooklyn’s loyal fans. Defensively, the Nets looked lost, allowing 73 points to a Knicks team mostly rolling out tikes and end-of-bench role players.

Overhelping proved to be a major catalyst to Brooklyn’s sluggish start (and New York’s fiery shooting). Below, after R.J. Barrett drives, Nic Claxton helps unnecessarily to stop the drive even with LaMarcus Aldridge manning rim protection duties, thus opening up the three for Taj Gibson.

And yes, while Obi Toppin isn’t exactly a polished marksman (shooting just 26.8% from three this season), leaving him this open is just tempting fate. Kessler Edwards is more than capable of defending Barrett and does a great job engulfing his drive, so it’s unclear why Durant shifts down into the paint to provide assistance.

Maybe the lowest point in the half was when Steve Nash deployed a LaMarcus Aldridge-Nicolas Claxton frontcourt, a duo that was -16 together against New York, tanking Brooklyn’s early 20-15 advantage on the scoreboard. On offense, the two bigs got in each other’s way. On defense, Aldridge’s rigidity proved to be a tasty treat for the Knicks' lead creators. Here, Barrett puts Aldridge in a blender by catching him in the air with a pump fake and drawing the and-one.

Rolling out Claxton and Aldridge for the second-straight game simply wasn’t Steve Nash’s finest decision as a coach, to put it lightly.

That brings us to Act II, or what we like to call, “Nash’s redemption.”

With things practically knotted up in the clutch, Nash went to the aforementioned Kevin Durant-at-the-5 lineup. More precisely, Kyrie Irving, Patty Mills, Seth Curry, Bruce Brown, and Kevin Durant: Three self-creators, four plus-shooters, and one of the best gap-fillers in the league to even out the fringes.

Initially, the Nets got the run going by running Kevin Durant off a wide pindown screen from Bruce Brown, a staple of Brooklyn’s offense in the early goings of last season. The Knicks elected to not switch the action by dropping Jericho Sims in the paint, putting loads of pressure on Barrett to get over the top of the screen and hopefully contest Durant’s midrange look. It didn’t work.

It got especially silly late in the game. Patty Mills hit a spinning three-pointer with the shot clock expiring. Seth Curry did, well, this, canning a three-point look from Coney Island after the Knicks double-teamed Kevin Durant up top. Overall, the Durant-Irving-Mills-Curry-Brown lineup was a +15 from the field and was Brooklyn’s key to closing out the crosstown rival.

In the end, kudos to Steve Nash for the big adjustment. Brooklyn will surely lean into the Durant-at-5 lineups when it matters. For now... it was nice to get a little preview.

Joe Tsai sees and hears the Brigade

Joe Tsai, who’s been a lot of Nets games lately both at home and on the road, was at the Garden for the Knicks game and took note of his team’s most raucous fans...

Nice hashtag.

As Sponge Bob might say...

What’s next

Cleveland Cavaliers v Orlando Magic Photo by Gary Bassing /NBAE via Getty Images

The Nets will host their foreseeable Play-In Tournament opponent, the Cleveland Cavaliers, on Friday. The game is slated to tip at 7:30 p.m. ET.

For a different perspective on Wednesday night’s cross-town rivalry game, check out Posting and Toasting — our sister site covering the New York Knicks.