Talk about two teams from the same city going in different directions.
The Knicks blew out the Nets on Wednesday at the Garden, 142-118, as Jalen Brunson scored 30 of his 39 points in the first half.
The Knicks (37-27), who matched last season’s win total, have won seven in a row and moved two games ahead of the Nets for the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Nets fell to 34-28 on the night in which Kevin Durant made his Phoenix Suns debut. Brooklyn has lost four in a row and six of seven.
Brunson shot 15-for-18 from the field, 5-for-6 from three and 4-for-4 from the line. Quentin Grimes scored 22 points and Julius Randle had 21. Mitchell Robinson scored 13 points and had 10 rebounds. RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley each scored 15. The Knicks hit 20 of 35 three-pointers (57.1%).
Cam Johnson led the Nets with 33 points.
Brunson, who grew up outside Chicago, wore a Patrick Kane No. 88 New York Rangers jersey after the game. Kane was traded from the Chicago hockey team and will make his Rangers debut on Thursday in the same arena Brunson lit up on Wednesday.
“I’m happy he’s in New York,” Brunson said. “He’s just a legend. I respect him a lot.”
Brunson has a long way to go to become a New York legend, but there’s probably not a more popular Knicks player at the moment.
Brunson banged knees with Brooklyn’s Mikal Bridges early in the game and was limping. It didn’t seem to slow him down.
The Knicks came out hot and fast in a jacked-up Garden with a three-point shooting barrage and led 47-29 after one quarter.
The Knicks shot 81.8% on threes in the quarter (9-for-11). Brunson scored 16 points and backcourtmate Grimes had nine.
The first-quarter scoring binge started with a Julius Randle three-pointer over two defenders and ended with Josh Hart knifing through the lane for a layup. The outmanned Nets at times tried to defend. They failed.
It was the second time this season the Knicks scored at least 47 points in a first quarter. The franchise record entering the season was 45 and was passed on Nov. 13 when they scored 48 points against Oklahoma City.
The onslaught continued in the second quarter. RJ Barrett hit a three to push the lead over 20 for the first time at 55-33.
A few minutes later, Hart threw up an air ball on a three-point try. But Mitchell Robinson grabbed the rebound and fired it out to Brunson, who shot a three-pointer that hit off the rim, then high off the backboard, and then floated in to make the score 58-36.
Coulda called it right there.
“We’re having a lot of fun,” Randle said.
Brunson hit the final Knicks basket of the half when he drove to the lane to push his point total to 30 and give the Knicks a 27-point lead. That’s the most Brunson has ever scored in a first half.
Royce O’Neal hit a three at the first-half buzzer to bring to Nets to within 81-57.
The Knicks’ 81 points is third-best in franchise history for a first half and the most they’ve scored in a first half since 2008. The record is 84 in 1988 vs. Philadelphia.
The Nets had never allowed 81 points in a half before.
The Nets pulled to within 17 in the third quarter but the Knicks led 110-87 going into the fourth.
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau finally pulled Brunson and Randle with 2:56 left and the Knicks up by 30.
Thibodeau may have even smiled on the sideline.
“If you make 20 threes in a game, that’s a lot,” Thibodeau said. “We'vebeen on that [other] side of it. too. You know that teams get hot. Sometimes they challenge well, but you have good rhythm and if you have good rhythm you make. So I thought the first half was excellent.”
Before the game, Thibodeau refused to honor the concept of momentum when asked about the team’s winning streak.
“I don’t really like to look at it that way,” he said. “That’s the thing about streaks. Our last game against Boston [a 109-94 victory on Sunday] has nothing to do with tonight. So don’t look back, don’t look ahead, know that OK. Today we have to come in and these are the things that we have to do better than we did in the Boston game. But we have to also know and understand what it’s going to take to win tonight. Don’t look ahead and just keep the same process for each and every game, and if we’re doing the right things, we’ll win our share of games.”
As for the Nets, the fallout from their in-season roster renovations continues during a tough part of the schedule. Brooklyn lost to Milwaukee on Monday and visits the Celtics on Friday.
“We weren’t physical enough,” Nets guard Cam Thomas said. We had some open looks, and they just weren’t missing.
"You know they were making contested shots as well. Credit to them, they came out hot
and started off fast. But we just have to make it a little bit tougher on them. But they was blazing hot."