A triple-double from Julius Randle and stellar performances from R.J. Barrett and Reggie Bullock were not enough as Kyrie Irving’s 40 points carried Nets over Knicks.
The Brooklyn Nets (35-16) defeated the New York Knicks (25-26) by a final score of 114-112. For New York, Julius Randle finished with a triple-double: 19 points, 15 rebounds, and 12 assists. Reggie Bullock finished with 21 points and 5-of-10 from the three-point range. On the other side, Kyrie Irving carried the Nets with 40 points and seven assists. Joe Harris assisted Irving with 16 points and 2-of-3 shooting from the outside.
Despite Kevin Durant being out for the second straight matchup, there was a palpable buzz for this matchup. The last time the Knicks and Nets played, New York had one of their more memorable regular-season games, taking the Nets down to the final moments before losing. Randle was fed up by the end, R.J. Barrett had some big moments as the lead dog, and Immanuel Quickley received his first start. What did the Knicks have for an encore?
The first half saw New York struggle to start offensively, specifically Randle and Barrett. Both started off 4-of-10 but the Knicks remained in the game. The frontcourt duo of Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson cleaned up on the glass, while Reggie Bullock’s outside shooting kept New York in the game. Then, James Harden left the game for the Nets, aggravating a hamstring injury that bothered him recently.
New York pounced on Harden’s absence with a 17-6 run to close out the first half. Randle, struggling to put the ball in the basket, went into creation mode, finishing with eight assists in the first half and finding Bullock for several threes. This run, however, was inspired by Derrick Rose. The veteran point guard dropped 15 in the first half on 6-of-8 shooting off the bench, driving to the rim, and putting constant pressure on Brooklyn’s defense.
The second half saw the Knicks with a big lead and looking comfortable to start. Randle clinched his fourth triple-double of the season, Barrett knocked down a couple of threes, and the New York appeared to be on the road to clinching another win. That was until Irving went off, finishing with 10 third-quarter points and even got his teammates some good looks, thanks to his ability to bend the floor with his scoring.
A big 15-2 run in the third from Brooklyn turned a double-digit lead by the Knicks to a small Nets lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Knicks looked lethargic on both ends and Brooklyn jumped on them. Irving and Harris started the job, but Brooklyn’s role players like Jeff Green and Alize Johnson got good looks by attacking New York’s defense.
The fourth quarter was more about Brooklyn maintaining momentum. The Knicks struggled throughout the quarter on both ends—struggling to get anything from Rose and Randle, while Irving began to impose his will and terrorize New York’s defense. Barrett had a few good offensive possessions—a three-ball, a drive-and-kick, and a nice fadeaway shot to keep New York in it. Still, the Nets continued to pester New York’s interior defense throughout the game, while Irving and Harris kept pressure with outside shooting.
67 first half points compared to 45 second half points. Tale of two halves.
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) April 6, 2021
Regardless of whether you support the idea of a Knicks-Nets rivalry, this was a tough game to drop against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. To see Brooklyn lose Harden in the first five minutes of the game, the thought should’ve been to attack, and the Knicks did. Building up a double-digit lead wasn’t the problem, rather, the lack of any defensive pressure. The Knicks offense didn’t do any favors with untimely floaters in the lane and no real offense to speak of, but the defense allowed Brooklyn to do just about anything they wanted.
Not going to lie; I’m not loving the things I’m seeing from the Knicks lately, even with the win over Detroit the night before. Let’s move to the game notes.
- The Nets are incredible and it all makes sense. Harden as the point guard, Irving as the scoring guard, and Durant (didn’t play) as the guy who supercharges the offense. Even the secondary pieces like Harris (elite shooter with a ton of space), Nicolas Claxton (simple finisher in the dunker spot), and Bruce Brown (multi-faceted two-way guard) fit perfectly. The addition of Johnson as just an energy guy was on display tonight, as well.
- The Knicks cannot get to the rim. Early in the game, Rose was getting some good pressure, but as the game intensified, he could not get to the rim. Quickley’s biggest issue is that he couldn’t get to the rim. Simultaneously, Randle settled for floaters and step-back jumper. As the game intensified, he needs to be someone who can not only score at the rim (the biggest reason why Elfrid Payton plays) but someone who can get into the teeth of the defense and find open shooters, as well.
- Needed a bit more from Barrett (22 points) tonight. He had some impressive moments, including two nice threes in the second half, but I wish we got some more creation from him. The defense was solid but not great, as he couldn’t defend Irving and was moved to a lesser assignment. Offensively, I found Barrett doing a good job in diversifying his shot attempts a bit and attempting to take control as New York was losing their lead, but I thought it was one of the weaker games this season.
RJ AGAIN pic.twitter.com/p3I3TfI5X6
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) April 6, 2021
- You can’t take away the triple-double performance from Randle. However, the Knicks needed a bit more offensively. The passing was not only great but necessary as the Knicks offense began to sputter a bit. The shooting wasn’t great and Randle often settled for shots in the middle of the floor, often fadeaway jumpers. He did look a bit tired near the end of the game, with MSG Network’s Clyde Frazier and Mike Breen pointing out him walking up the floor a bit slower than usual in the fourth quarter. They probably get blown out without him, but the Knicks needed just a bit more from Randle tonight.
- A tale of two halves for Derrick Rose. The first half was Rose getting good looks at the rim, finishing shots, and using his navigation in the paint for some good passes out to shooters. The second half was a bit of a horror show, as Rose couldn’t find that same zip to the basket, his shot was off and he pressed it just a bit as the Knicks were trying to come back from the deficit. I completely understand why people think he should start over Payton, but I also understand why Tom Thibodeau isn’t too keen on pulling that trigger right now.
- The rebound margin wasn’t that one-sided, but it felt like Brooklyn got a majority of the 50-50 balls needed to maintain the pressure on New York in the second half. Johnson and Claxton kept Taj Gibson battling on the glass for rebounds and the Nets won that battle.
The Knicks travel to the TD Garden to face the Boston Celtics (25-25) on Wednesday, April 7th. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.