After all of the optimistic and brave talk about their willingness to match their "Big 15" against the Nets’ "Big 3," the Knicks didn’t have enough to counter even a big one.
After building a 14-point first-half lead and leading by 11 midway through the third quarter, they could not hang on and, most of all, could not find a way to stop Kyrie Irving. With Kevin Durant sitting out and James Harden lost early in the first quarter, the Nets’ much-hyped trio was down to Irving, and that proved to be enough.
Irving delivered a step-back three-pointer over Elfrid Payton with 59.3 seconds left, giving him 40 points and securing a five-point advantage for the Nets. The Knicks tied it, fell behind again and had one last chance that bounded off the rim in their 114-112 loss Monday night at Barclays Center.
After Alec Burks hit a tying three-pointer with 26 seconds left, the Nets’ Joe Harris missed in the lane, but Jeff Green (23 points) grabbed the rebound and was fouled by Reggie Bullock with 3.7 seconds remaining. Green hit both to give the Nets a two-point advantage, and the Knicks called their final timeout.
Julius Randle got a clean look at a game-tying shot, but it bounced off the rim, ending the game without the controversy of the last game.
"It does nothing for me," said Randle, who had his fourth triple-double with 19 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists. "It’s a win or a loss. So it’s not any moral victories in it. That’s fine. We’ll get back to it."
The Knicks fell to 25-26 and eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
"I thought we had some costly turnovers," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "That hurt us. The offensive rebounding hurt us. I thought we played a very good first half. The start of the third was good, we didn’t close out the third well. And then we fought at the end to have a shot at it."
"We just want to be on the other side, on the winning side," said RJ Barrett, who scored 22 points, one more than Bullock. "Whatever mistakes we’re making, we have to clean them up. We see how close we are."
Irving already had put a dagger in the Knicks in the last meeting here less than a month earlier, forcing Randle into a turnover as time was expiring. It was his ability to carry the offense that ruined the Knicks’ chances on this night.
The Knicks led 83-72 with 5:32 left in the third quarter and were up seven when Irving went to the bench with 3:15 remaining in the period. But by the time the quarter ended, the Nets had pushed ahead at 89-88.
The Nets stretched the lead to as many as six points in the fourth but the Knicks hung in, clawing back every time the Nets appeared ready to put the game away.
With 5:24 left, Randle and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot got tangled up, drawing double technicals.
"I don’t really know what his problem was," Randle said. "He’s not a guy on the court that I’m really worried about. He tried to give me a little forearm or whatever, so I just slapped his arm off me and they gave us a double tech."
Notes & quotes: The Knicks filled their final roster spot Monday, signing 6-9 center John Henson to a 10-day contract. Henson, 30, who had not played this season, played for Cleveland and Detroit last season after spending his first seven seasons with Milwaukee. "He’s just insurance," Thibodeau said. "He’s been around. Has shown the ability to protect the rim. So we had an ability to sign him."