Nets beat Knicks to rise atop NBA standings

Nets star Kevin Durant drives around Knicks forward Julius Randle during a meeting between the two New York teams.
Brad Penner/USA Today Sports/Reuters

Led by the All Star duo of Kevin Durant and James Harden, the Brooklyn Nets boast the best record in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, and the team from Barclays Center is showing no signs of slowing down.

With 15 wins and just 6 losses, the Nets currently edge out the Chicago Bulls and the Washington Wizards for the top spot, which puts them in prime playoff positioning as the 82-game season heats up. 

But the Nets can brag about more than just the standings, as the team also won New York City bragging rights on Nov. 30, when they topped the Knicks in front of a bitterly divided Barclays Center crown by a 112-110 margin, thanks to James Johnson making two free throws with 2.2 seconds on the clock.

The game showed a growing contingent of Nets fans, who have been increasing in numbers since the team moved from New Jersey in 2012 — though, as Nets head coach Steve Nash noted, New York City is still largely dominated by Knicks fandom. 

“We know it’s gonna be a pro-Knicks crowd,” Nash said. “The Knicks have been around for 75 years if I’m not mistaken. We understand that, and it’s an opportunity for our team to rise up to the challenge and defend their home court. I thought the atmosphere was great though, it felt like a barnburner.”

The Nets started strong and led the game 33-28 at the end of the first quarter. James Harden spearheaded Brooklyn’s scoring in the first period with 15 points. On the other hand, Alec Burks led the Knicks with nine points. 

Both teams went blow for blow in the first two quarters. Despite Harden’s 28-point half for Brooklyn, the Knicks lead 61-60 at halftime. Cam Thomas was the only other Nets player in double digits at the half with ten points. Kevin Durant had a quiet first half, scoring only six points.

While the Nets lead as much as 16 points early in the third quarter, the Knicks took advantage of Harden being on the bench and managed to cut the lead to four. Durant started to find the net in the third, adding ten more points to his tally. The Nets lead 88-84 at the beginning of the fourth and final period.

The fourth quarter saw ten lead changes and four ties. Durant lead the Nets in the fourth, with 11 points in the final 5:45. The Knicks’ Evan Fournier (13 points), tied the game at 110 with 17.7 seconds left before his teammate Mitchell Robinson fouled James Johnson, sending him to the foul line with 2.2 seconds remaining on the clock. Johnson would make both free throws to win the game for the Nets. 

Despite a slow start to the game, Durant finished with 27 points, nine assists, and five rebounds. Harden finished with 34 points, ten rebounds, and eight assists. According to Harden, the key was “not thinking about anything and being aggressive the entire game”. “The second half was a little different, but we had guys get it going. Patty [Mills] started the second half of hot and Kevin got going a little bit. Just aggressive, that’s the mindset for four quarters”, Harden added. 

Cam Thomas had 12 points for the evening while Patty Mills scored 10. 

“On one hand, I thought it was closer than it needed to be. On the other hand, we found a way”, Nash stated postgame. “We got some stops, we got some rebounds, made plays. James Johnson had three big free throws, Kevin made some big plays down the stretch and James was great most of the night. I feel like everyone chipped in and held them to 49 in the second half”.

The Nets will take the court next on Friday night when they play host to the Minnesota Timberwolves.