photo credit: Al Bello/Getty Images
Looking to sweep their cross-river rival, the Brooklyn Nets were already depleted going into their final regular-season game against the New York Knicks on Monday night. Already without Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Tyler Johnson, and Landry Shamet, Steve Nash's Nets were met with another injury that should have all Nets players, coaches, and fans holding their breaths. In his first game back, their team leader and MVP candidate, James Harden, exited the game with tightness in his hamstring, the same hamstring that had recently sidelined him. When talking about how the Nets reacted to Harden leaving the game, Kyrie Irving said, "emotionally, we feel. It's tough to move on to the next thing. We just want James to be healthy. We want guys to be healthy. It was tough. You saw it in the flow of the game." Harden's exit happened just four minutes into his return.
On Monday, the injury-depleted Nets had one focus and one focus only, which was to sweep the Knicks. Harden leaving hurt a lot, but Brooklyn needed to do what they have done since all of their team's injury, and that is persevere.
In the first quarter, the Nets played fine but by no means their best basketball. They posted 31 points, which was bested by New York's 34. LaMarcus Aldridge had a rough start to the game but found his way and eventually got going.
The second quarter was all Knicks. The Nets were unable to fill the Harden void, and understandably so. The Knicks outscored the Nets 33-26, giving them a ten-point lead at halftime (67-57).
Nash got his squad going in the third. Just like all night, Kyrie Irving carried his team. Brooklyn shut the Knicks down and put up 32 points compared to New York's 21. In the final quarter, Irving reached the 40 point mark. The Nets narrowly outscored the Knicks 25-24, winning the game 114-112.
Just after Alec Burks tied the game for the Knicks, and after a Joe Harris missed shot, Jeff Green grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 3.7 seconds remaining. He knocked down both shots. Julius Randle missed the final shot, which was to tie the game.
With great help from Irving, Green, and Harris, the Nets once again showed that they can win without Harden and Durant. It may not be pretty, but a win is ultimately a win. Brooklyn has demonstrated that they can play a beautiful style that is obvious and a gritty one. Monday night was a prime example of that.
Irving had 40 points, 2 rebounds, and 7 assists. Green recorded 23 points, 4 rebounds, and an assist. Harris had 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists. Alize Johnson also had another fantastic night, posting 12 points, 7 rebounds, and an assist. Aldridge had 8 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot had 9 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists.
Bruce Brown and Nicolas Claxton didn't post crazy numbers, but they did play North-South basketball and helped the Nets on their side of the court. Chris Chiozza also responded when his name was called.
Overall, the Nets should be happy with the win. We can only hope that Harden is day-to-day, with Durant expected to return this week.
The Nets are back in action at home on Wednesday, when they take on the red hot Lonzo Ball, Zion Williamson, and New Orleans Pelicans. Tip-off is set for 7:00 PM Eastern Time.