NEW YORK — Kyrie Irving scored 34 points, James Harden welcomed himself to New York's basketball rivalry with his 10th triple-double of the season, and the Brooklyn Nets beat the Knicks 117-112 on Monday night.
Harden finished with 21 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists in his first game against the Knicks since arriving in Brooklyn two months ago and turning the Nets into one of the NBA's best teams.
The Nets agreed to the deal that brought Harden to Brooklyn on Jan. 13, playing short-handed that night at Madison Square Garden in a 116-109 victory over the Knicks. That made them just 7-6, but they are 20-7 since Harden’s arrival, including 19-4 when at least two of their three superstars play.
Jeff Green scored 20 points as the Nets won for the 13th time in 14 games, even with Kevin Durant sitting out the last 12 of them with a strained left hamstring.
Julius Randle had 33 points, 12 rebounds and six assists for the Knicks, who are in a tough stretch with Milwaukee, Brooklyn and Philadelphia, the top three teams in the Eastern Conference, in their first four games after the All-Star break.
The Nets led by 18 late in the third quarter, but the Knicks had it down to 115-112 after a dunk by Randle and then got the ball back when coach Tom Thibodeau successfully challenged a foul called on RJ Barrett with 7.7 seconds remaining. The Knicks won the ensuing jump ball but Randle was called for travelling and Harden closed it out with two free throws.
A furious Randle tried to approach the officials after the buzzer and a number of Knicks had to get off the bench to hold the All-Star forward back.
The Nets made 70% of their shots and led by five after one quarter, then opened the second with a 14-2 spurt to take a 49-32 lead. Brooklyn had an 18-point lead with under 2 minutes remaining in the half, but New York cut it to 67-55 at the break.
Barrett scored 23 points and rookie Immanuel Quickley had 21 in his first career start for the Knicks.
Knicks: Quickley started with the Knicks playing without point guards Elfrid Payton (strained right hamstring) and Derrick Rose (health and safety protocols). Also, Austin Rivers is away from the team for personal reasons. ... C Mitchell Robinson, recovering from surgery on a broken hand, did some shooting workouts before the game. Thibodeau said Robinson was making progress and hopefully would be able to return soon.
Nets: Coach Steve Nash presented Harden with the February Eastern Conference player of the month award before the game. ... Brooklyn’s 62.5% shooting from the field was its highest in a first half this season.
GETTING GRIFFIN READY
The Nets continue to take it slowly with Blake Griffin, the six-time All-Star they signed during the All-Star break. Griffin hadn't played in his final weeks in Detroit so the Nets don't want to hurry him into the lineup before his body is ready, listing him out with left knee injury management.
“He's healthy enough to play, we’re just trying to work on some of his physical deficiencies to help the knee and also ramp up his activity so he can have a safer return to play,” Nash said. “So, we just keep monitoring it, just keep building and we’ll have him back at some point here.”
The victory was the Nets' 100th against the Knicks. New York leads the series 101-100 with one meeting left this season.
Knicks: Visit Philadelphia on Tuesday.
Nets: Visit Indiana on Wednesday.
Brian Mahoney, The Associated Press