The Nets are a popular pick for NBA title favorites, and the Knicks have been at or below .500 since February 17. Both of those facts have basketball fans in New York collectively elated—for the first time in a long time.
Those facts also helped to reignite a debate that carried on and on ahead of Monday’s Nets-Knicks game: Which team really owns New York?
After Brooklyn’s 117-112 win, one perennial All-Star added more fuel to the never-ending discussion.
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Harden Weighs in on Nets-Knicks Rivalry
With COVID-19 safety measures still in place, only 1,637 fans were in attendance for Monday’s game at Barclays Center, per ESPN. Still, that small number of fans provided a big boost of energy.
Especially the Knicks fans, according to Nets star James Harden.
“I got a little taste of (the Nets-Knicks rivalry) tonight, you know? In the sense of, just these New York fans, especially the Knick fans—you can hear them,” Harden said, via SNY. “I don’t know how many fans we have in the building total, but you heard a lot of Knick fans.
“We understand the tradition. I’m just happy to be a part of the tradition, of the rivalry and on this Nets team and the rhythm and the way we’re playing.
That, of course, set off an avalanche of a reaction on social media. It’s summed up nicely in the short exchange below between two Twitter users.
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Harden on Nets’ Hardfought Win Over Knicks
For now, one thing is certain: the Nets are the momentary owners of bragging rights.
Earlier this season, on January 13, Brooklyn held off the Knicks with a 116-109 victory at Madison Square Garden. That was one day before the Nets officially acquired Harden from the Houston Rockets in a mega four-team trade.
And after Monday’s win, the Nets clinched the season series against the Knicks; the teams play only once more this regular season, on April 5 at Barclays Center.
Still, Monday’s win was by no means easy. It looked like it was going to be, but these Knicks are gritty.
After the game, Harden, who had 21 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists for yet another triple-double, spoke about the Nets’ effort Monday. Brooklyn held an 18-point advantage with 2:50 left in the third quarter before the Knicks got to within three points with 11 seconds left.
“We just got to relax,” Harden said after the game, via SNY. “We had a number of times where we could (have) put them away. We just didn’t make the right plays or whatever, or they made shots. They’re a fiesty team. They’ve got some shot-makers. Obviously we know how well Julius Randle has been playing. But we had opportunities to make shots and go up 20 or whatever, and we didn’t do it. And they came and knocked down a couple of 3s and then quickly got it going. So give them credit: They made shots, they played well. But when it was time to close out the game, we did what was necessary to win.”