Brooklyn Nets: Two Key Takeaways from Nets’ Nail-Biting Win over Knicks

Welp, the latest installment of the Nets/Knicks rivalry took place Tuesday night, and it did not disappoint. The energy in the building was electric from the opening tip to the final buzzer. Nets fans drowned out chants of “Lets Go, Knicks!” Knicks fans booed Kevin Durant and James Harden whenever they got to the line (which happened frequently: 19 free-throw attempts between the pair).

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Speaking of The Beard, Harden was in his bag early, totaling 15 first-quarter points en route to a 34-point night. The teams traded blows and exchanged runs all night. Brooklyn would amass as much as a 16-point lead in the third quarter; however, the Knicks fought and clawed their way back led by the sharpshooting of Alec Burks. New York would take the lead midway through the fourth quarter, but Brooklyn responded. Kevin Durant hit some clutch buckets, but Evan Fournier tied the game with a clean-look three off the inbound with under 20 seconds to go.

The hero of the night would not be Durant or James Harden, but James Johnson, who would hit two free throws with 2.2 seconds left following a Mitchell Robinson foul, which proved the be the game-winner. Evan Fournier’s heave at the buzzer hit off the rim capping off an exhilarating win for the Nets.

Here are two key takeaways from Brooklyn’s 112-110 victory:

The Beard Unleashed

From the opening tip, it was clear this was a different James Harden than the one that graced the floor against the Suns. Whether it was a new Gatorade flavor or the pregame pep talk from Reggie Miller, Harden looked like the Harden of old.

He started off with a breakaway dunk and then hit back-to-back threes. Harden would score 11 of the team’s first 13 points. The entire first half was almost like being put in a time machine to last season. This was the Harden the Nets traded their young core for. He was scoring in a plethora of ways: step-back threes, layups, drawing whistles. The Beard put on a scoring clinic to the tune of 28 first-half points. The second half would be more mundane for James as he only scored six points, but his facilitating took over. For the game, Harden would finish with a stat line of 34 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists. Besides the Pelicans game from earlier in the month, this was his best outing of the season.

This level of play is what is expected of Harden: an MVP-caliber performance on a nightly basis is not too much to ask when he was doing it a few months ago. It was refreshing to see him attack when he got a mismatch and pick his spots accordingly. There were still some questionable turnovers Tuesday, but it was otherwise a dominant outing. Hopefully, this game will serve as a jumping-off point, as the Nets will need him to help carry the team alongside Kevin Durant.

Cam Thomas Solidifies his Role

The rookie continues to generate buzz and excitement on the floor. With each passing game, Thomas seems to be getting more and more comfortable. Against the Knicks, Thomas made his presence felt early. He was the first player off the bench and immediately made an impact on the defensive end by collecting a steal. This led to a fast break assist on a Bruce Brown layup. He also had a very nice possession in which he put the clamps on Julius Randle and forced the Knicks’ All-Star into a heavily contested shot.

Offensively, Cam was Cam. His first shot was a three swished from the corner that forced New York to call a timeout. The next two possessions saw Thomas hit a pull-up jumper and then a very long three after Durant hit Julius Randle with an ankle-breaker. After a 10-point first half, Thomas would only score once more, on a floater in the third quarter. When he wasn’t scoring, he worked well within the flow of things. He kept the ball moving, and even picked up a dime of his own in the half-court. Overall, Thomas played his role perfectly and you couldn’t have asked more from the youngster.

Obviously, we know of Thomas’ scoring prowess but what has really stood out since he has been inserted into the lineup is his defense. His defensive possessions in this game were very encouraging and makes one feel like Thomas could be a legitimate defender. Off the bench, he is proving to be a welcome addition capable of getting big minutes for this team.