Irving scores 40, Nets lose Harden but beat Knicks 114-112

National Sports

Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving (11) celebrates after making a 3-point basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks Monday, April 5, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

NEW YORK (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 40 points, Jeff Green made two free throws with 3.7 seconds left and the Brooklyn Nets overcome the early loss of James Harden to beat the New York Knicks 114-112 on Monday night.

Harden returned after missing two games with right hamstring tightness but lasted just four minutes before having to leave again with the same injury.

But even short-handed and on the second night of a back-to-back, the Nets had enough.

“It was a total team effort,” Irving said. “A lot of guys stepped up, especially our bench. They came in and made a difference, and when we got guys out, injury bug, we need that more than ever.”

Irving wore down the Knicks’ defense with his dazzling dribbling moves that freed up space for jumpers, including a 3-pointer with 59 seconds left after New York had closed within two.

“He’s just an amazing basketball player and he found a way to keep our team in it for big stretches,” coach Steve Nash said, “and a lot of guys played really well when he was out, gave us a lift and then he was able to come in and close. So, brilliant performance and really gutsy from everybody.”

The Knicks scored five straight to tie it at 112 on Alec Burks’ 3-pointer and forced the ball out of Irving’s hands on Brooklyn’s next trip. Joe Harris missed a jumper, but Green got the rebound and was fouled.

After his free throws, Julius Randle missed a jumper as time expired.

Green scored 23 points and Joe Harris added 16 for the Nets, who won their eighth straight at home.

Randle had 19 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists in his fourth triple-double of the season. RJ Barrett scored 22 points and Reggie Bullock added 21, but the Knicks couldn’t hold a 14-point lead just before halftime.

“Well, I thought we had some costly turnovers that hurt us and the offensive rebounding hurt us,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “So I thought we played a very good first half, the start of the third was good, we didn’t close out the third well and then we fought at the end to have a shot at it.”

The Nets were hoping to finally be whole again this week, but now with Harden hurt again it’s unclear if they’ll be able to put either of their other superstars out there with Irving. Kevin Durant shot around before the game and Nash said he was hopeful the All-Star forward would be ready to play for the first time since Feb. 13.

“But it’s definitely not set in stone,” Nash said.

The Nets’ Big Three has played just seven times since Harden was acquired nearly three months ago.

Brooklyn led 51-50 with just over three minutes remaining in the half before Randle fed Bullock and Barrett for consecutive 3-pointers. Irving scored but New York answered with the next 11 points, with another 3-pointer by Bullock making it 67-53.

Irving went to the bench with the Knicks leading by seven with 3:15 to play in the third. But Brooklyn’s reserves sparked a 10-2 run to close the period and send the Nets to the fourth with an 89-88 edge.

TIP-INS

Knicks: The Knicks signed F/C John Henson to a 10-day contract. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed. The Knicks had already signed Norvel Pelle, another defensive-minded center, to a 10-day deal on Friday. Despite their similarities, Thibodeau said he likes the idea of getting a look at both players.

Nets: Blake Griffin rested his left knee on the second night of the back-to-back, just as he did last week. … Nash said G Tyler Johnson would likely miss two or three weeks rehabilitating a right knee injury, calling it encouraging that the injury wasn’t worse.

FIT TO BE TIED

The Nets tied the all-time series between the local rivals at 101 wins apiece. It’s even at 106 wins counting the postseason. The Nets swept the season series for the first time since 2014-15.

UP NEXT

Knicks: Visit Boston on Wednesday.

Nets: Host New Orleans on Wednesday.

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