So when Durant led the Nets’ comeback in the second half and made play after play in the fourth quarter to seal the win on Wednesday, it marked a significant moment in the Knick-Net rivalry.
But the Nets could have been playing any team in the NBA on Wednesday and the win would have been significant.
Why? Brooklyn’s win kept them on pace to finish seventh in the Eastern Conference and host a Play-In game. If the Nets had lost Wednesday, they would have needed help from Cleveland to finish in seventh. Now, if they beat Cleveland on Friday and Indiana on Sunday, they will finish in seventh.
Also, the Nets executed on defense in the second half against New York, something they’ll need to lean on in the Play-In tournament and postseason.
“The second half is who we are, you know?” Durant said. “Thirty-one points (allowed), playing small, switching stuff, making second and third efforts and getting out and running.
“It was one of those nights, and I’m glad our shots started to fall there, because we had good energy on the defensive side of the ball. So when we do that, we put ourselves in good position. So it’s more about the habits and I like the habits we had in the second half.”
Durant was brilliant when the Nets needed him most. He had 13 points, nine rebounds and six assists in the fourth quarter, leading the Nets’ 14-4 run to close the game.
“We asked everyone to give to the team and put the team first and I thought you could see that on display (in the second half),” Steve Nash said. “Everyone was fighting. There was more energy. We were contesting parts of the floor better, contesting actions, contesting shots and held them to 31 points in the second half which is obviously an outstanding effort.”
The Nets struggled in the first half and trailed by as many as 21 early in the third quarter.
Nash said the club took some possessions for granted early on, a habit they need to break next week.
But if the Nets can defend in the Play-In Tournament the way they did in the second half on Wednesday, they will be a tough out.
Irving said he and Durant – who finished with a triple-double (32 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists) – were able to push each other throughout the game. That’s another element that the Nets stars may need to lean on during tough moments in the Play-In/playoffs.
“I feel like we collaborated a lot in small conversations throughout the game and we’ve been able to grow with one another,” Irving said. “This year more than the other years just towards the end of the season, because we know how much this matters to us and to the other guys of course.
“But the other guys are looking to us for either inspiration, motivation, or just telling them positive things and we don’t want to let our frustration show on our faces at all or show on our body language.
“Sometimes its inevitable… emotions in the moment. But with him specifically we were born to play this game at a very high level. He’s seen so many things in this league I have as well. You know, he has a few years on me in terms of his experiences. So I really lean in on him and he just knows I’m a killer alongside him. So he can be hard on me. And he can say you know, almost anything he wants in the heat of the moment.
“But we just know we could demand excellence out of one another and we just want to have that energy carry on to the rest of the group. So we’re finding our balance right now, finding our groove. And when we do, we can climb out of holes like this. But we don’t want to necessarily be in a situation like this.”
IRVING AND DURANT ON NETS-KNICKS RIVALRY
Irving and Durant both answered questions about the Knicks-Nets rivalry and on their decision in the 2019 offseason to sign with Brooklyn.
Here’s Durant on the rivalry:
“We’re both in the city. We know how much Knicks fans don’t like us. Especially now this era, with us not choosing the Knicks me and Kyrie. It definitely adds something to the rivalry no matter who is on the team. You know, I think it will always be like that in the city. It’s good to be a part of this. It’s a fun rivalry. Hopefully it continues to build. If we get more and more animosity between the fan bases, it’s only good for the game.”
Durant was asked about his tweet chiding Knicks fans/the Garden after the Nets came back from 28 points down in a win before the All Star Break.
“I mean imagine the tweets I’ve been getting since I decided to come to the Nets. Knicks fans are still pissed off. Little jabs here and there. Like I said, there’s always love in the streets when I see the Knicks fans. Always love at the games. It’s a good rivalry to be a part of. Everybody who steps into our building will realize how big games these gams are. It felt like a home game to us. And last two time it felt like a home game to the Knicks when they come to the Barclays. That’s what basketball is all about.”
Durant also said he didn’t believe a report during 2019 free agency that stated the Knicks didn’t want to offer him a max contract due to his ruptured Achilles.
“I don’t know how true that is. You heard rumors. Sources. I don’t know where those come from. So I take that with a grain of salt. I didn’t believe it.”
Here’s Irving on he and Durant’s decision to sign with Brooklyn over New York:
“(The Knicks) had a good chance of getting us back in free agency, but we just felt like we wanted to build here and just make our mark on this on this franchise. And, you know, I don’t think we regret our decision. And we just want to live with really leaning on each other and making sure this is successful for us.”
Source: Yahoo Sports