The Knicks played without Mitchell Robinson, who’s season likely ended with surgery on his foot. Brooklyn played without Kevin Durant, who is likely set to return to action this week, but also missed Blake Griffin, Landry Shamet, and Tyler Johnson, leaving them thin on the bench.
Things quickly got worse as James Harden exited after just four minutes with hamstring tightness. Harden exited early against the Rockets last week, missing two games. Kyrie Irving stepped up to fill the void, and the Nets got solid performances off the bench from Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Alize Johnson.
The Knicks started to pull away in the second, with Julius Randle close to a triple-double at the half, which he quickly earned in the third quarter. The largest lead was 14 for the Knicks, but as time continued to tick, the Nets clawed their way back.
At the end of the third, the Nets reestablished a one-point lead. Brooklyn looked poised to pull ahead for good, but the Knicks fought to the very end. In the final 30 seconds, Alec Burks hit a stepback three to tie the game at 112.
In the Nets’ final possession, Joe Harris pulled up for a deep jumper, which rattled off the back of the rim. Luwawu-Cabarrot tipped the loose ball, which fell to Jeff Green for a big offensive rebound. Green was fouled on his putback attempt and hit both free throws for a 114-112 lead.
The Knicks couldn’t convert on their last possession, and the Nets completed a season sweep of their rivals, though the games were closer than they may have hoped. While the loss sent the Knicks below .500, the team shows heart that hasn’t been seen for years.
For the Nets, they’re proving that even when stretched thin, they can find ways to win big games. With key players out, the Nets haven’t faltered and remain atop the East. Still, Brooklyn will hope to see their big stars get back to the court soon.