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Nets 114, Knicks 112: “This is one of those games where I question my sanity”

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Almost won, though. Does that count for something?

New York Knicks v Brooklyn Nets
This game got away from the Knicks like that ball got away from Randle.
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Despite missing Kevin Durant, James Harden and Blake Griffin, Brooklyn’s big three of Kyrie Irving, Joe Harris and Jeff Green dragged the Nets past the Knicks Monday night, erasing an 14-point third quarter deficit and handing New York its fourth loss in five games.

Sorry to be a downer, but this loss was exasperating. The Knicks held their own against the depleted Nets for the second time in three weeks, but like last time, failed to finish the job. Brooklyn’s makeshift big three combined for 79 points, led by an infuriating 40 from Irving, who is both transcendent and annoying, but more annoying than transcendent.

This one was there for the taking, although it’ll never be easy going against these Nets, what with the 41 combined All-Star appearances across the roster. KD is almost back but wasn’t quite ready to go tonight, and Harden left after less than five minutes because of a hamstring flareup. Griffin, meanwhile, was out for seemingly no reason at all, and LaMarcus Aldridge is still a recent arrival, so the Knicks — coming off a 44-point bounceback beatdown of the Pistons in Detroit — could have conceivably come away with the win.

Had the Knicks pulled this one out, Knicks fans would have celebrated like Paul Pierce risking it all to live stream tomfoolery.

Okay, enough chit chat. Let’s, begrudgingly, get into it. New York withstood a 14-point barrage from Kyrie in the first thanks to buckets from seven separate Knicks, led by backup point guard Derrick Rose, who poured in 9 points on 3-4 shooting in just over five minutes of play. Julius Randle seemed quiet, although he ended the quarter with 6 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. That’s what All-Stars do. They amass numbers, sometimes without you even knowing.

The Nets received points from six players, however, choosing not to let the Knicks run free. Though the teams mostly went back and forth for the first 12 minutes, it was a troubling sign that Nerlens Noel picked up two early fouls, and the Nets were in the bonus less than four minutes into the period. Fortunately, Taj Gibson was there to pick up the slack, putting up 6 points and 3 boards in almost 10 minutes of action.

He also had a steal in the final seconds of the quarter, which led to one final offensive opportunity for the Knicks, but Gibson’s last-second dunk wound up not counting because he didn’t quite jam it in time. That’s okay, the Knicks still finished the period up 34-31. And it’s not like anyone has ever lost a basketball game by two measly points before.

In the second quarter, the Knicks continued sharing the ball, with eight players getting on the board and the team totaling 9 assists. Early baskets from Alec Burks and Obi Toppin increased the lead to seven, and before long the advantage had ballooned to double digits, punctuated by a second straight Reggie Bullock three that capped a 17-2 run and made it 70-57.

In what was a consistent theme, Irving immediately followed that Bullock three with an outrageous swooping layup, pausing New York’s momentum before it could bury the Nets. Tom Thibodeau called timeout after the Nets cut the lead to seven, but made no substitutions, something that has been a hallmark of his this season. Randle banked in a fallaway jumper and then dished it to Barrett for a corner three, and the Knicks were comfortably up 11.

But the Nets, following their annoying leader like lemmings, gnawed their way back and before you could blink it was a four point affair. Green, who notched 20-plus points for the third straight game, nailed a three to give him 16 points on the evening (he finished with 23), and then Alize Johnson, who is on a 10-day contract with Brooklyn, got to the hoop for a layup to give the Nets their first lead in a long time.

The Knicks responded to the run with a complete and utter lack of ball movement, and the Nets took an 89-88 advantage into the final period. Kyrie had 34 points already and hadn’t even played for much of the run that got Brooklyn back into the game. The mood was dire.

The Knicks fought tooth and nail for a few minutes, with Toppin sinking a huge corner three to tie it at 91, but then Kyrie splashed an absolutely ice cold step-back three on Randle that felt like a dagger to the heart. We won’t replay the shot here, although there’s the stupid link if you want it. It was a beautiful shot, but it can go to hell.

The Knicks, like Monty Python’s Black Knight, pretended that Irving’s three was merely a flesh wound. A headless chicken that didn’t yet realize it had been slaughtered, New York wobbled around. They even went on an astounding 7-0 run, and a Barrett three brought them within three, 102-99. The Knicks successfully challenged a Randle block that was called a foul and maybe could have stayed a foul, and for a few minutes looked like a team that might still be full of life.

They did so by doubling Irving every time up the floor and forcing him to make long, wild passes that caused chaos. The Nets countered by doubling Randle on the other end, and a stalemate was reached. Both teams struggled to score for a couple minutes, and Kyrie reached 40 with two free throws that put the Nets up 112-107 with 59.3 on the clock.

Somehow, someway, the Knicks pressed Irving into a turnover, and suddenly a Burks three tied the game with 25.5 seconds to go. But two free throws from Green gave the Nets a two-point lead, and coming out of a timeout, Randle dribbled into a long two that bricked. The wobbly chicken fell to the ground, dead. Next stop, your dinner table.

In the end, this one was difficult to stomach, as the Knicks fell to the Nets 114-112. At 25-26, they’re now 8th in the Eastern Conference.

Notes:

> With 19 points, 15 boards and 12 assists, Randle notched his fourth triple double of the season and third in the last 12 games, per the Knicks.

> RJ was quite good overall, with 22 points on 7-13 shooting, including 4-6 from deep, plus 4 boards, minus 5 turnovers. Wish he’d gotten a chance to take that final shot. Perhaps a potential game-winning three pointer.

> Immanuel Quickley only played about 13 minutes again, and he wasn’t very effective. Everyone wants the old IQ back. Even Thibs.

> Randle had a little dustup at one point with some no-name on the Nets. It was invigorating. But Randle needs to learn to keep his cool. He does an awful lot of complaining about calls.

Blegh, that’s all folks. Knickoftime read my mind: “this is one of those games I question my sanity.”

The Knicks play again tomorrow, Wednesday, April 7, against the Boston Celtics. Good luck, Knicks.