NEW YORK (AP) — Kevin Durant loves being part of New York’s basketball rivalry, even finds it funny when he hears from the opposing fans.
He should enjoy it. When it comes to the Knicks, Durant always gets the last word.
Durant had 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, leading the Brooklyn Nets back from 21 points down to a 110-98 victory Wednesday night that strengthened their chances of the best spot possible next week in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament.
Durant hasn’t lost a game against the Knicks in nine years and the stakes are even bigger now since he and Kyrie Irving showed up in Brooklyn in 2019.
“We know how much Knicks fans don’t like us, especially now this era of the Nets, with us not choosing the Knicks, me and Kyrie. So it definitely adds something to the rivalry,” Durant said.
After watching the Nets come back from 28 down when he was hurt in their last visit to Madison Square Garden, Durant scored 23 points in the second half to fuel this comeback that pulled Brooklyn within a game of Cleveland for seventh place in the East.
The Nets host the Cavaliers on Friday night. If they win that and then beat Indiana on Sunday in their regular-season finale, they would finish seventh and need to win one game in two chances at home in the play-in to qualify for the postseason.
Irving added 24 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Nets, who swept the four-game season series and beat the Knicks for the seventh straight time, their longest winning streak in the local rivalry since taking a franchise-record 11 in a row from 1984-86.
It appeared it would go the Knicks’ way most of the night, and they were still ahead by 18 with under four minutes left in the third quarter. But Brooklyn cut it to 10 by the end of the period, then opened the fourth with a 15-2 spurt to storm into the lead.
With Durant and Irving both playing the entire second half on the second night of a back-to-back, Brooklyn outscored New York 60-31 after halftime.
“I just kept telling our guys that this is our game,” Irving said.
The Knicks recovered to go back ahead by three, but Durant scored eight straight Brooklyn points, including the tiebreaking jumper that made it 98-96 with 4:15 to play. The Nets followed with 3-pointers by Irving, Seth Curry and Patty Mills to break it open.
“We’ve got to understand the intensity at that point of the game is different,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said.
Durant improved to 20-3 against the Knicks and has won won 12 straight games against the Knicks that he played in, with the last loss in 2013 in Oklahoma City. He said he still gets asked by Knicks fans why he decided not to join them when he left Golden State.
“It’s all fun at the end of the day, it’s all funny, but people respect my decision.,” Durant said. “They respect my game, but I understand how big Knicks-Nets is in the city so I’m just trying to embrace it.”
Curry and Mills each scored 15 points.
Alec Burks scored 24 points, and RJ Barrett had 23 for the Knicks, who were in control after a 19-0 spanning the first and second quarters.
The Knicks closed the first quarter with a 10-0 spurt to take a 29-25 lead. They ran off the first nine of the second period, making it 38-25 on Obi Toppin’s basket just over two minutes in. New York got consecutive 3-pointers from Barrett and Evan Fournier made it 63-46 and the lead was still 17 at the break.
Burks opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer and Barrett knocked down a free throw to make it 71-50, but New York would get only 11 more points and shoot 5 for 20 in the quarter. Durant hit a pair of 3s in a 10-2 run to end the period that trimmed it to 82-72.
Nets: Coach Steve Nash said G Goran Dragic, who missed his third straight game in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, was feeling better but still in Atlanta, where he started feeling ill. … F James Johnson was out for a second straight games with an illness. … Brooklyn finished 24-17 in the road, most wins in franchise history.
Knicks: Starting C Mitchell Robinson was scratched win an illness unrelated to COVID-19. Knicks coach Thibodeau said rookie G Quentin Grimes, who was out again with a sore right knee, was day to day and he would leave it up to the player and medical staff it he played again this season.
In their two second halves at Madison Square Garden this season, the Nets outscored the Knicks 127-72.
Nets: Host Cleveland on Friday night.
Knicks: At Washington on Friday night.