Tagged in: Nets

Kyrie Irving says he’s opting in to $36.5 million option with Brooklyn Nets

Kyrie Irving is opting in to his $36.5 million option with the Brooklyn Nets for next season, he told The Athletic on Monday.

“Normal people keep the world going, but those who dare to be different lead us into tomorrow,” Irving told The Athletic. “I’ve made my decision to opt in. See you in the fall. A11even.”

Irving had created a list of teams he would have liked the Nets to consider working with on a sign-and-trade deal if they couldn’t agree on terms for him to stay in Brooklyn, but the Los Angeles Lakers were the only team known to be interested.

Without the ability to find a sign-and-trade deal, Irving plans to exercise his player option, sources confirmed. He has until 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday to file to paperwork to opt in.

Irving is now no longer eligible for a sign-and-trade deal.

The Nets could still work to trade him as an expiring contract, but Irving would have no formal voice in a potential landing spot. He has until June 30 of next year to work out an extension with the Nets before becoming an unrestricted free agent.

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Irving, 30, averaged 27.4 points, 5.8 assists and 4.4 rebounds last season but only played in 29 regular-season games. By deciding not to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Irving was ineligible to play in New York City because of a city vaccination mandate for employees.

When he did play, Irving reminded everyone just how talented he still is, as evidenced by a stretch in March and April when he scored at least 40 points in four games, including 60 during a March 15 win over the Orlando Magic.

There were usually large gaps in between when he could play in the schedule, until New York City mayor Eric Adams reversed course in late March and allowed a vaccination exemption for athletes and performers. Irving played in all four games of the Nets’ first-round loss to the Boston Celtics in the playoffs.

A seven-time All-Star and three-time All-NBA selection, Irving has averaged 27.1 points and 6 assists while shooting 49% from the field and 40.6% from 3 over the past three seasons. But due to a variety of injuries and other issues off the floor, he has played in just 103 regular-season games over that span.

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Kendrick Nunn, 26, opts into final year of contract with Los Angeles Lakers

Kendrick Nunn, who missed all of last season because of a bone bruise in his right knee, is opting into the final year of his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers worth $5.25 million, sources told ESPN on Tuesday.

Nunn, who turns 27 this summer, signed with Los Angeles for the midlevel exception last summer but never played a match during the regular season after injuring an ankle during training camp and later discovering the bone bruise, which was slow to heal.

The Chicago product came into the league undrafted out of Oakland and latched onto the Miami Heat, averaging 15 points on 36.4% from 3 and 88.1% from the foul line in two seasons, along with 3.0 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game.

During his exit interview with reporters in April, Nunn announced his plan to return to Los Angeles.

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“Knowing that I just took this entire year off, it’s a no-brainer for me to opt in,” Nunn said.

Nunn’s decision puts the Lakers at five guaranteed contracts on the books for next season, along with LeBron James ($44.47 million), Anthony Davis ($37.98 million), Talen Horton-Tucker ($10.26 million) and Austin Reaves ($1.56 million).

Russell Westbrook, entering into the final year of his deal worth $47.06 million, has until June 29 to inform L.A. whether he intends to opt in or not.

Los Angeles also has team options on Stanley Johnson ($2.35 million) and Wenyen Gabriel ($1.88 million) for next campaign.

Even if the Lakers exercise those options, the front office will still have half the roster to fill out this summer as it looks to regroup from one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history (33-49 in 2021-22).

In other Lakers news, the team is hiring Nets assistant coach Jordan Ott for a more prominent role on Darvin Ham’s new staff.

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Brooklyn Nets’ Ben Simmons to undergo back surgery; expected recovery timeline of 3-4 months

Brooklyn Nets swingman Ben Simmons will require three to four months of rehabilitation after undergoing back surgery on Thursday, but is expected to be fully recovered to return to the court well ahead of preseason training camp in September, sources told ESPN on Wednesday.

Simmons, 25, is undergoing a microdiscectomy procedure to address pain located in a herniated disk in his lower back, the Nets stated Wednesday in a release.

The decision to undergo the surgery was reached after “consultation with multiple back specialists,” the team said.

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Despite several attempts that ultimately resulted in setbacks, Simmons never played a game for the Nets following a Feb. 10 trade with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Simmons had planned to return for Game 4 of the Nets’ Eastern Conference first-round series versus the Boston Celtics, but a week-plus of pain-free days ended with pain soreness on the eve of Brooklyn’s elimination.

Simmons and his agent, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, met with Nets general manager Sean Marks and team officials the following day, agreeing to continue to work together on Simmons’ physical and mental well-being in the ultimate effort to try and return him to the court next season.

The surgery will clearly limit Simmons’ ability to progress on a 2022-23 return after missing the entirety of the past season with the Sixers and Nets.

Simmons, a three-time All-Star and the 2017 NBA Rookie of the Year, has three years and $114 million left on his contract after this season.

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Jayson Tatum’s layup at buzzer gives Boston Celtics win over Brooklyn Nets in Game 1 of first-round playoff series

Jayson Tatum has been adamant he didn’t view the Boston Celtics’ matchup with the Brooklyn Nets as a chance to prove anything opposite two of the league’s elite scorers.

His finish in Game 1 said otherwise.

Tatum made a layup at the buzzer on a pass from Marcus Smart to give Boston a dramatic 115-114 victory on Sunday in Game 1 of the first-round playoff series.

“When he took that dribble, we just kind of made eye contact,” Tatum said of Smart. “He made a great pass. It doesn’t get any better than that. A buzzer-beater in a playoff game at home.”

Tatum scored 31 points, the last two on the first buzzer-beater of his career. It was Boston’s first in the postseason since Paul Pierce’s in 2010 against the Miami Heat.

Tatum’s bucket came during a poised Boston possession in the frantic final seconds. After Kevin Durant missed on the other end, the Celtics rebounded and raced up the court, electing not to call a timeout.

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Jaylen Brown dribbled toward the middle and swung the ball out to Smart. He then fired it into a cutting Tatum, who spun around and dropped in his layup just before time expired.

“I’ve always been told you have more time than you realize you have,” Smart said. “I was about to throw it to Al [Horford] off the dribble, and I saw JT cut at the last minute.”

All five Celtics touched the ball on the possession.

“I think that’s kind of a microcosm for our season, guys moving the ball being unselfish,” Boston coach Ime Udoka stated.

Dating back to last postseason, Tatum has four consecutive 30-point games in the playoffs, matching Larry Bird in 1987 for the longest such streak in Celtics history.

Brown added 23 points. Horford had 20 points and 15 rebounds. And Smart finished with 20 points, including four 3-pointers.

Kyrie Irving put up 39 points, including 18 in the fourth quarter. But the Celtics forced the ball out of his hands the last time Brooklyn had it, and Durant missed a jumper with a one-point lead that set up the Celtics’ final possession.

Durant added 23 points but shot just 9-of-24.

“They did a good job of forcing me away, then helping in the paint,” Durant said. “I just got to be more fundamental in my moves. I feel like some shots went in and out for me.”

Boston charged out of halftime with a 23-8 run to open a 82-69 lead, sparked by Smart’s deadeye shooting from beyond the arc.

The Celtics also seemed to tweak their approach to guarding Durant in the half court, fronting him and sending help over the top to limit his driving ability.

Durant and Irving still found ways to score, but they had to exert increased energy to get off their attempts.

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Nets’ Andre Drummond says final two regular-season outings are ‘must-win games’ for Brooklyn

As the Brooklyn Nets prepare for their final two regular-season games of the season, they do so in control of their own playoff destiny.

If the Nets — currently seeded eighth in the Eastern Conference with a 42-38 record — win their final two matches, they will lock up the seventh seed and would host the East’s first play-in game next Tuesday night.

Veteran center Andre Drummond left no doubt where his team’s mindset is heading into Friday’s game versus the Cleveland Cavaliers — the team that sits one slot ahead of the Nets.

“I think they’re must-win games for us,” Drummond said after Friday’s shootaround. “I think we know what’s ahead of us and we know what’s going to happen if we do win these two games. I think our sense of urgency is a little bit higher than what it was before, and I think we’re prepared to take that next step.”

The Nets, who have dealt with a range of injuries, a teamwide COVID-19 outbreak in December and Kyrie Irving’s part-time status from January to March because of his decision not to get the COVID vaccine, remain confident that they can still catch the rhythm they need to make a long run in the postseason.

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“If we’re playing well heading into the play-in game, then those two games take care of itself and we should win ’em,” guard Seth Curry said. “But if we’re not playing well, then we’re probably not going to get out of the play-in game anyways.

“So it’s just a matter of [playing] our style of play, having confidence and being in a good rhythm playing our best basketball.”

Both Drummond and Curry have been solid since being dealt, along with Ben Simmons and two future first round picks, to the Nets in a trade-deadline deal that sent James Harden and Paul Millsap to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Despite the fact that Simmons still hasn’t played for the Nets because of a back injury — and a playoff return remains a very unclear possibility — Brooklyn remains steadfast in the belief that they can still win a title this year.

“I think it’s everybody’s mindset in the beginning of the year, is to try and win a championship,” Drummond said. “I think with this team we have a special group of guys here — anything is possible, it’s the NBA at the end of the day. Anything can happen.

“We just got to hang our hat, put our best foot forward … so we do have that mindset that we can win. I think everybody has that same mindset. For us, we’re just trying to stay within ourself and make things happen.”

For Curry, that means continuing to play through pain in his left ankle.

After missing the past two games, Curry scored 15 points and hit three 3-pointers in Wednesday’s 110-98 win over the New York Knicks. “It’s pretty much the same, man,” Curry said of his ankle injury.

“Just trying to manage it — and got through it and played through some pain. So it’s just an everyday managing thing, trying to get through end of the season into the playoffs, giving the team what I can. I feel like if Tiger can shoot 1 under at Augusta yesterday, I can play through a little bit of pain for the rest of the season.”

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With Harden out, Trail Blazers down the Nets 114-108

Anfernee Simons had 23 points and 11 assists, and the short-handed Portland Trail Blazers took advantage of James Harden’s absence for a 114-108 triumph over the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night.

Harden was out with a hyperextended left knee. Kyrie Irving started in his second match of the season and finished with 22 points. Kevin Durant led all scorers with 28 points and 10 rebounds for the Nets.

Robert Covington had 21 points, including five 3-pointers, for the Blazers, who saw all five starters score in double figures.

Simons stated Covington’s play against Durant boosted the team.

“I think RoCo did a good job of playing him the second half,” Simons said. “So that was that was big for us to slow him down and just kind of play team defense. We’ve been playing very hard, we’ve been making a lot less mistakes on defense. That’s been helping us.”

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Monday’s game was initially scheduled for Dec. 23 but was postponed because of COVID-19 issues.

In making up the game, both teams were playing the second of back-to-backs.

Portland led 87-81 going into the final quarter. Covington’s 3-pointer put Portland up 107-100 with 2:15 to go but the Nets closed within 110-105 down the stretch.

Ben McLemore’s 3 with 31.9 seconds left made it 113-105 and sealed it for Portland. McLemore finished with 20 points and five 3s.

“Certainly nobody in the world thought that we would win this game with the guys that we have missing, even though they’re missing some important players too,” Portland first-year coach Chauncey Billups said. “I’m more happy than anything for our team, to be honest. We’ve suffered a lot of losses in this building, a lot of bad losses.”

The Blazers again were without Damian Lillard, out with lower abdominal tendinopathy, and backcourt teammate CJ McCollum, who has been out for 14 games after a collapsed lung. Fellow starters Norman Powell (COVID-19 protocols) and Larry Nance Jr. (right knee) were also out for Portland.

Meanwhile, Nets coach Steve Nash said the team was being cautious with Harden in a dense stretch of games and that Harden should be available on Wednesday at Chicago.

Irving, who has refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine and is barred from playing in New York due to the city’s vaccine mandate, has resumed playing on the road. For his first game last week at Indiana, he finished with 22 points in nearly 32 minutes.

Irving appeared to tweak his ankle in the fourth quarter but afterward said he was fine and would play Wednesday. He criticized Portland’s Nassir Little for diving on the play: “I tried to get out of the way but I just felt like it was unnecessary for him to dive that far away from the ball.”

Brooklyn led 62-55 at the break, paced by Durant with 20 points. It was his 19th straight game with 20 or more points, the second-longest streak of 20-point games in Nets history.

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Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash says ‘good chance’ Kevin Durant exits COVID-19 protocol this week

While Kevin Durant could be rejoining the Brooklyn Nets later this week when they are back in New York, Steve Nash says Kyrie Irving will need between a week and two weeks to ramp up before making his season debut.

Durant and Irving stay in health and safety protocols and are not with the team in Los Angeles, where the Nets play the Clippers on Monday night. But the team returns to New York after the match, and the Nets could have Durant and center LaMarcus Aldridge out of protocols and back with the team when they play Philadelphia on Thursday.

“I think there’s a good chance Kevin will be,” Nash stated after the team’s shootaround about whether Durant will be back with the team when it gets back home. “With Kyrie, I’m not so sure, but it’s coming. He’s already been [in protocols since Dec. 18]. … He’s got to be getting close.”

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Aldridge entered health and safety protocols on Dec. 14 along with five other Nets. The other five — James Harden, James Johnson, Bruce Brown, DeAndre’ Bembry and Jevon Carter — were all cleared and played in the Nets’ victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas.

Durant and Irving went into protocols on Dec. 18. The day before, the Nets announced Irving would be returning to the team to play on a part-time basis. Because of New York City’s vaccine mandate, Irving is not allowed to play in home games at Barclays Center or at Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks.

Since the point guard has not practiced on a regular basis with the team since early October in training camp, Nash says it will take Irving time to ramp up. The Nets have yet to see Irving on a court since deciding to bring him back into the fold because he went into health and safety protocols.

“It’s hard to say, but I would say probably somewhere between a week and two weeks,” Nash said of the ramp-up. “He’s obviously been isolating so that kind of puts another layer to the ramp-up. It’s not like he’s been working out so probably I’d imagine it’s going to be closer to two weeks once he comes out of protocols. We’ll just have to see how it goes, though, because we have to evaluate him from a physical and performance standpoint and a basketball standpoint as well.”

After concluding this two-game trip in Los Angeles, the Nets only have two road games in their following nine games after Monday’s game at the Clippers. They play at Indiana on Jan. 5 and then at Chicago on Jan. 12.

If Irving doesn’t play in those games, the Nets could have him at Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 17 for the start of a four-game road swing.

Harden stated on Saturday that having Irving back, even on a part-time basis, “will be huge for us.”

“Hopefully we can get him back full-time,” center Nic Claxton said. “But it’s definitely gonna be scary hours [with Irving back]. I think he’s gonna break the game for us, and make things easier for everybody on the court. And I’m just, I’m ready to get my brother back.”

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Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash concerned with Kevin Durant’s minutes, ‘not safe or sustainable’

Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash stated he’s concerned about the amount of minutes superstar forward Kevin Durant is playing this season, and that the team is going to have to monitor him closely as it navigates the next several matches with a short-handed roster ravaged by COVID-19.

“It’s a really important topic,” Nash said before Brooklyn beat the Philadelphia 76ers 114-105 at Barclays Center Thursday night for another short-handed victory.

“I don’t know we can continue to lean on him the way we have. It doesn’t feel right.

“I know he’s enjoying it. I know he’s enjoying playing at the rate he’s playing at and trying to bring his teammates along with him and all the responsibility that he’s accepted and crushed, basically. It’s just been incredible. But, at the same time, it’s not safe or sustainable to lean on him like that. There’s gonna be a lot of consideration and we’ll have to figure out ways to give him breaks.”

Durant is averaging 36.9 minutes per game this season — fourth-most in the NBA, behind Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, his teammate OG Anunoby and Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James.

That is the most minutes per game Durant has averaged in eight years, since he averaged 38.5 minutes per night during the 2013-14 season, when he scored 32 points per game and claimed his lone Most Valuable Player award.

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The 33-year-old played a season-high 48 minutes in Tuesday night’s overtime victory versus the Raptors here at Barclays Center, finishing with a 34-point triple-double in a 131-129 Brooklyn win — the fifth time in 26 games this season that he’s eclipsed the 40-minute mark. He did so after being listed as questionable to play in Tuesday’s game earlier in the day with right ankle soreness. He followed that up by playing 39 minutes in Thursday night’s game, scoring 34 points.

“I just try to do what’s required, man,” said Durant, when asked about his minutes load after Tuesday’s win. “I mean, I want to be out there. I want to play. I want to win. So, it starts there.

“Whatever I got to do to accomplish those three things, I’m going to do.”

For the Nets, though, the challenge is not just winning today — it’s winning several months from now, when Brooklyn hopes to be making a deep playoff run as it challenges for its first NBA championship.

That will require getting Durant through the season healthy in the wake of missing the entire 2019-20 season due to an Achilles tear suffered in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals, and playing just 35 regular-season games last season because of recurring hamstring issues.

Durant has only missed two games so far this season.

But with Brooklyn down seven players due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols for a minimum of another week — plus remaining without Joe Harris, who is recovering from ankle surgery, and Kyrie Irving, who has not played yet this season after failing to fulfill New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine requirements, Nash said he needs to balance keeping the Nets afloat during the period they are short-handed without putting too much strain on Durant’s body.

While Nash said veteran guard Langston Galloway, whom the Nets signed with a hardship waiver Wednesday, was available for Thursday’s game — giving Brooklyn nine available players — Nash admitted that having just enough players available to keep playing is a double-edged sword.

“The question is we’re above the threshold, so to speak, which is positive,” Nash said, referring to the NBA’s minimum requirement of having eight healthy players available to play in a game. “At the same time, we’re barely above the threshold. So what toll does that take on our players?

“Is it better to be over the threshold and to not be playing until you have a healthy roster or is it better to have enough to play but to be short-handed and the burden and the toll that takes on these guys and knowing that you’re going to have guys coming back who haven’t been able to practice or play basketball? So it is definitely tricky to navigate.”

As for Brooklyn’s opponent Thursday, 76ers coach Doc Rivers stated Georges Niang — who tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday — said no one else had tested positive yet. But after going through their own outbreak earlier this season, one that cost them both superstar center Joel Embiid and second-leading scorer Tobias Harris, Rivers said the team held a call Wednesday to try to tighten up their own protocols amid COVID-19 spikes across the country — let alone in professional sports.

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Rockets beat shorthanded Nets 114-104 for 7th straight win

Eric Gordon scored 21 points before being ejected in the fourth quarter and Garrison Mathews added 19 as the Houston Rockets extended their winning streak to seven games with a 114-104 triumph over the shorthanded Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.

Before the streak, the Rockets dropped their previous 15 matches. It’s the first time Houston has won seven consecutive since winning eight in a row in November 2019.

“The adversity that we went through prior to this point has made it even sweeter,” coach Stephen Silas said. “We’re feeling pretty good about ourselves.”

James Harden had 25 points for the Eastern Conference-leading Nets on a night when NBA leading scorer Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge both sat out for rest. It was Harden’s second visit to Houston since he was traded in January during his ninth season with the Rockets.

The Rockets led by 17 to start the fourth quarter and the Nets cut the deficit to four before Houston pulled away.

Mathews, who had 12 points in the fourth, scored four in a 5-0 run that extended Houston’s lead to 109-97. Patty Mills made one of two free throws for the Nets before a three-point play by D.J. Augustin made it 112-98 with about two minutes to go.

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“When you beat a team like that it means something,” Mathews said. “This streak’s been a huge boost to our confidence. It’s been a huge boost to our morale.”

The loss snapped a six-game road winning streak for the Nets, whose nine road victories are tied with the Suns for most in the NBA.

The Nets shot just 8 of 33 from 3-point range, with Harden going 3 of 12 and finishing 4 of 16 overall. He was 14 for 16 from the line.

“I got the shots I wanted, for sure,” he said. “I just didn’t make them.”

Harden received a fair number of boos when he was introduced and each time he had the ball early. But he got a warm ovation after a highlight video of his time in Houston was played during a timeout in the first quarter.

He formed his hands into the shape of a heart as he held them over his head and then moved them to his chest and smiled as the crowd cheered.

Harden stated playing in Houston will always be meaningful to him.

“Very special,” he said. “I spent some of my most amazing years here on the court and off the court.”

Cam Thomas had 18 points for Brooklyn, and Mills added 12.

A 10-0 spurt by the Nets got them within four with about 7½ minutes left. Harden capped that run when he made a 3-pointer as he crashed to the court after being fouled by Mathews and made the free throw for a four-point play.

Gordon was ejected soon after that when he received his second technical foul of the game for yelling at the officials about not getting a foul call.

Harden’s free throw after Gordon’s technical cut the lead to four, but a 6-1 spurt by the Rockets, highlighted by a 3 from Mathews, made it 104-95 with 4½ minutes left.

Houston led by as many as 20 and took control of the game with a 37-point second quarter. The Rockets ended the third quarter on a 6-2 run, punctuated by a one-handed dunk by Kenyon Martin Jr. to make it 90-73 entering the fourth.

Houston rookie Josh Christopher stole the ball from Jevon Carter and dished to Martin on the other end, and he sailed over Carter for the slam.

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Nets edge Knicks 112-110 on James Johnson’s free throws

Kevin Durant and James Harden took turns putting on a show in front of the largest crowd ever to see a Nets match in Brooklyn, one that was split between fans of New York’s two teams.

In the end, the Nets were celebrating and the Knicks were fuming.

In its 10th season, the matchup between teams just a few miles apart looked like a real rivalry.

“Being here two years now, it doesn’t matter who’s on that team or who’s on this team, I think the energy’s always going to be there,” Harden said. “… Whether it’s here or at MSG, the fans are going to be cheering for their respective teams and it’s going to be a good game every time, and tonight we’re just happy to come out with the win.”

They got it after James Johnson made two free throws with 2.2 seconds left to give the Nets a 112-110 triumph Tuesday night.

Harden had 34 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, and Durant heated up after a slow start to finish with 27 points and nine assists. He had 11 points in the final 5:45, but the Knicks sent a second defender to force him to give the ball up on the last possession — as Durant suspected might happen.

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“But it’s risky to do that in the fourth, I mean the last shot of the game,” he said. “And yeah, I was prepared for it coming out of the timeout.”

The ball went to Johnson, who was fouled in the lane and made the free throws for the final points of an entertaining, nationally televised undercard to the Warriors-Suns main event.

Alec Burks scored a season-high 25 points in his new role as the Knicks’ starting point guard.

Julius Randle added 24 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. But he took only two free throws and was hit with a late technical foul for complaining about not getting calls.

“As aggressive as I play, attacking the paint, I can’t be penalized for just being stronger than people and that’s the answer that I got today,” Randle said.

The teams traded leads throughout the fourth quarter in front of an announced crowd of 18,081.

The Nets had highlight plays all over the floor to open the second half, with Harden’s soaring follow slam and DeAndre’ Bembry’s swatted shot into the seats coming during a 14-0 spurt that turned a one-point halftime deficit into a 74-61 lead.

Brooklyn had the lead up to 16 with 4 minutes left in the third period, but the Knicks whittled it down to 88-84 heading to the fourth. The lead was never bigger than that in the final 12 minutes.

But the Knicks didn’t do enough in a game where the Nets shot 25 free throws to their 12. “I want to take a look at the film. There’s a big discrepancy in free throws. I can tell you that,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said angrily. “Julius is driving the ball, and he gets two free throws.”

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