Kevin Durant sparks Nets to crucial comeback win over Knicks

Knicks fans are still bitter that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving picked the Nets.

Then the two stars reminded them why, leading Brooklyn to a much-needed 110-98 victory before a crowd of 19,812 at the Garden.

By halftime, the Nets had dug a 17-point hole, and Irving had even gotten verbally involved with a fan who walked off the court into the locker room. But when they did come out, Brooklyn outscored the Knicks 60-31 the rest of the way, their best defensive performance of any half this season.

Durant had 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, and Irving added 24 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. He, too, went back and forth with the fan at halftime and then waved goodbye to the Garden crowd.

“Man, I just needed to release some of that energy, honestly. Because we were in a hole for most of the game and I kept telling our guys this is our game, this is our game,” Irving said. “But waving to the crowd was like, ‘Hey, see you next year.’ ”

Kevin Durant, who had 32 points, goes up for a dunk during the second half of the Nets’ 110-98 victory over the Knicks.
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It was the Nets’ seventh straight win over the Knicks and, after trailing 71-50 in the third, the second time they’ve erased a 20-plus-point deficit this year at the Garden.

“I hate being depressed. I hate even being that team [to] duck and counterattack. I don’t like that shit. I don’t want that to be part of who we are,” said Durant, who said this has turned into a rivalry, which escalated after he and Irving chose Brooklyn in June 2019.

“We know how much Knicks fans don’t like us. Especially now in this era, without us picking the Knicks, Kyrie and myself. …Imagine the tweets I’ve been getting since I decided to come to the Nets. Knicks fans are still pissed off, little bumps here and there.”

Although Durant said it was all love from Knicks fans, Irving confirmed that he gets asked all the time why he chose Brooklyn over Manhattan.

“Of course,” Irving said, acknowledging that he loves to play provocateur. “I don’t really give an explanation. … You know me. I throw darts in the air and just wait for people to assume what they want. I’m lying? What could he be talking about? Are you talking about this?

Kyrie Irving, who had 24 points, looks to make a pass during the Nets' win.
Kyrie Irving, who had 24 points, looks to make a pass during the Nets’ win.
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The Nets, trailing by 21 points in the third, used a 20-2 blitz that lasted into the fourth. And after the Knicks regained the lead, Brooklyn (42-38) closed on a 16-2 run to stay eighth in the East.

“The first half we didn’t play the Nets style of basketball, things that we preach about every day,” Durant said. “But the second half is who we are.”

Alec Burks led the Knicks with 24 and RJ Barrett added 23, seven assists and seven rebounds. The Knicks (35-45) outscored Brooklyn in the first half, only to be outscored in the second.

“You can’t do much against a 7-footer who can shoot jumpers on anybody,” Barrett said.

RJ Barrett, who had 23 points, goes up for a layup during the Knicks' loss.
RJ Barrett, who had 23 points, goes up for a layup during the Knicks’ loss.
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Durant’s pull-up put the Nets up 25-19 with 1:55 left in the first.

The Knicks went on a great 19-0 run, capped off by a layup by Obi Toppin (19 points). Brooklyn missed eight straight shots and saw the Knicks take a 38-25 lead. It was 5:00 p.m. and the sideline swelled to 71-50 on Barrett’s free throws.

The Knicks still led 82-67 after a Toppin fade with 1:34 left in the third. But Brooklyn used a 20-2 blitz to pick up the momentum and take the lead.

A midrange pull-up by Durant put the Nets up 87-84.

Barrett put the Knicks back ahead 96-94 with 5:11 remaining, but Brooklyn scored 10 unanswered points, part of a 16-2 run to close out the game, to seal the win.

After Durant found Patty Mills (15 points) so far in trouble for a big 3-pointer and a 101-96 lead with 2:48 left, the Knicks never responded.

“It was very unsatisfying for a while. Proud of the group,” coach Steve Nash said. “We didn’t play well in the first half. We did not give the fight, the spirit, the necessary energy. … The second half, though you could see them take the challenge, and we needed it all.”

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