Kevin Durant, Nets Beat Knicks in 1st Game After Reported James Harden Trade

Jenna Ciccotelli
·3 min read
Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant reacts walking on to the court before the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks, Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant reacts walking on to the court before the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks, Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Well, it could have been worse for the New York Knicks.

Playing their crosstown rivals, they could very well have been faced with an intimidating trio of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden. But with Irving out for personal reasons and Harden not yet with the team following the trade that sent him away from the Houston Rockets, they were let down easily by a score of 116-109 on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

A 35-point second quarter was the key for the Nets, who held a 61-45 lead at the break and held on to improve to 7-6.

The Knicks, led by Julius Randle's 30 points, managed to keep pace in every frame except for the second quarter, trailing by one point after the first quarter and matching Brooklyn's 31 points in the third, but they couldn't catch up after the second set.

Notable Performers

Judging the Bench Behind James Harden

The Nets are down to a bare-bones roster with Irving's continued absence and DeAndre Jordan's backup, Jarrett Allen, on the move to Cleveland along with backup power forward Taurean Prince.

Durant was back in the lineup for Brooklyn on Wednesday, and while the bigger game to watch will certainly be whenever Harden shows up in town, there was plenty of opportunity to see how the recently shuffled bench will fit in behind its trio of stars.

Naturally, Kevin Durant led the scoring for the Nets, but behind him, four other players tallied in double-digits.

One of those players was rookie Reggie Perry, who had appeared in four games leading up to Wednesday.

Jeff Green, who got the nod at small forward, tallied 11 points, and Bruce Brown posted 14 with 12 rebounds—who both started, but will be relegated to the sidelines once the trio of stars is back—were bright spots. All together, the Nets bench posted 34 points.

Wednesday's outing proved that this team will be competitive even without more than half of the members of their recently-acquired Big Three.

RJ Barrett

The Knicks had an impressive start to the season, going 5-3 to open the year. But their skid has been just as noticeable. They've lost each of their last three games by at least 10 points, dropping to 5-6 in the process.

RJ Barrett, the team's No. 3 pick last season, has struggled in his second year in the league. Through 11 games this season, he has averaged 16.0 points and 7.6 rebounds, but he's hitting just 36.5 percent of his shots from the field and 18.0 percent from three.

After starting the season by scoring double digits in seven consecutive games, he's been limited to nine on two separate occasions and 11 on another.

On Wednesday, he started the night by going 0-for-4, and he ended the first half with just two points, both of which came on first quarter free throws.

He finally found his groove after the break and ended the night as the Knicks' second-leading scorer behind Julius Randle, recording a 14-point third quarter.

But it was too little too late for the Knicks. In a 61-45 hole at halftime, they couldn't find their way out of the hole. But Barrett, even with a slow start amid recent struggles, could prove to be an important piece for the Knicks once he's able to find his consistency in the league.

What's Next?

The Nets will host the Orlando Magic on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET.

The Knicks are hitting the road to visit a player they were expecting to see Wednesday—former Net Jarrett Allen—and the Cleveland Cavaliers. That game tips off at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday.