In what was a revival of a nine-year rivalry between the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks on Tuesday, the two Eastern Conference contenders delivered a thriller in their first meeting of the season. After it was all said and done though, the Nets showed exactly why they still run New York.
James Harden (34 PTS, 10 REBS, 8 ASTS) was a man on a mission to start, scoring 15 points in just the first quarter on 4-of-5 accuracy from the field. He helped to set the tone with Kevin Durant (27 PTS, 9-23 FG) not looking as sharp as he usually is on any other given night.
Brooklyn made sure to put pressure on New York’s defense all game by attacking the interior and it paid off. They got to the line to shoot 25 times and overall, the team scored 46 points in the paint. Getting buckets in the paint has been something that Nets head coach Steve Nash has stressed in these early stages of the campaign.
After building a 16-point lead, it seemed like the Nets where in control of the game going into the final period. Well, that was until New York finished the third quarter on a 16-4 run. This helped to trim the deficit to a four-point lead to go into those final 12 minutes.
It came down to the final two possessions of the game to decide a winner. With the score knotted up at 110, James Johnson (7 PTS, 2 REBS) was the hero for Brooklyn after making himself an option for Durant with mere seconds left in the game after he was getting doubled.
Johnson drove and got to the free-throw line, where he sealed the deal for the Nets. With no timeouts and just 2.2 seconds left in the game, Evan Fournier (13 PTS) put up a shot from half-court, but it didn’t fall.
Kevin Durant: B+
New York’s defensive schemes were sharp in the second half against Kevin Durant (27 PTS, 9 ASTS), but the 33-year-old missed some easy shots in the first half that could have got him going more. Nevertheless, the former Texas longhorn found some rhythm in the second half to close out and his facilitation out of double teams was pretty much perfect. He showed off his brilliance in that aspect of his game.
Some things that didn’t go Durant’s way was his accuracy from downtown (0-for-5) and his field goal percentage in general, shooting it at only 9-of-23 from the field. That’s only 39%. For his standards, that’s not his usual self.
James Harden: A
James Harden (34 PTS, 10 REBS, 8 ASTS) has deceived us all. To think his hamstring was still bothering him or something to start this season was all just chatter. Harden came out aggressive with a score-first mindset and this elevated his game to the regular level we know the Nets guard for play at.
As he kept scoring, defenses adjusted and open shots for his teammates inevitably revealed themselves. Still, some better decisions from Harden could have led to picking up less turnovers. He ended the night with five of them, which is two more than what he should be aiming for.
Patty Mills: B
Patty Mills (10 PTS, 2 3PM) spammed the three ball this game and only shot 2-of-10 from there. Mills couldn’t find his usual rhythm, but his defensive intensity all game long along with the spark he provided coming out of the half were key in getting the victory.
Again, if the three ball is not dropping, which is always going to happen sometimes, driving to the basket will give him more space on the perimeter for these catch and shoot opportunities. He was a little too predictable camping on the perimeter.
Cam Thomas: A+
Cam Thomas (12 PTS) did what he needed to do. With not much scoring production from Brooklyn’s bench last game, Thomas was one of the only players off the bench to change that and you could just see the confidence sizzling off of him as he made himself familiar with the team’s rivals.
LaMarcus Aldridge (8 PTS, 4 REBS) was a problem defensively on his way to a team-high three blocks. He anchored the interior well for the Nets while also causing mayhem from the mid-range offensively from just his presence. Though, he missed some shots from that area that he typically knocks down.
Bruce Brown: A-
Although Bruce Brown (6 PTS, 3 REBS) answered a facetime call from Evan Fournier when he tied the game up at 110 on a three in the closing minutes, the Boston native was having a solid game up until that point. He didn’t miss a shot, going 3-of-3 from the field, in limited time (12 MINS). Brown’s defense was also active.