Kevin Durant’s 53 points propelled the Brooklyn Nets to victory over the New York Knicks in a 110-107 matchup at Barclays Center on Sunday afternoon.
The matchup came as the Nets fight to maintain their place in the Eastern Conference playoff picture — now boasting a 35-33 record, which places them in 8th place. The Knicks, meanwhile, find themselves at a lackluster 28-40 record, and 5 games behind the Atlanta Hawks for a potential 10th seed berth into the NBA’s play-in tournament.
The all-New York matchup on Sunday remained close for the entirety of the contest, with the team from Madison Square Garden trailing 62-60 at halftime, and keeping the score within 5 points heading into the final quarter.
Knicks young star RJ Barrett put the team up by 2 points with 2:52 remaining in the game with a pair of layups at the end of a 9-0 run for New York, which put a damper on the Nets’ chances to extend their recent win streak to 3 games.
But an Andre Drummond dunk, followed by a Durant 3-pointer recaptured the lead for the Nets, and they never gave it back up.
The Knicks began fouling the Nets with 6.6 seconds remaining in the contest, allowing Durant to secure his second game of the season with over 50 points.
With 53 points, 9 assists, and 6 rebounds, the game marked Durant’s 8th career performance surpassing the coveted 50 mark.
Brooklyn fans clearly appreciated Durant’s efforts, as the crowd began chants of “MVP” while the future Hall-of-Famer stepped up to the free throw line at the end of the matchup.
“We were short-handed a bit in the scoring department,” Durant said. I didn’t want us to get stagnant on the offensive side of the ball, so I put up a lot of shots.”
Meanwhile, Nets point guard Kyrie Irving, who has been barred from playing home games due to his unvaccinated status, was sitting along the court-side sidelines, which he has been allowed to due since New York City Eric Adams lifted the requirement that patrons be inoculated to enter businesses such as arenas, bars and restaurants on March 8.
Because the employee mandate remains in effect, forcing all workers of companies with over 1 employee to be vaccinated to resume in-person work, Irving is still barred from taking the court within the Five Boroughs.
Nets teammate Bruce Brown spoke after the game about the peculiar situation of seeing an unmasked Irving within the stadium, while still being prevented from playing.
“I don’t understand the ruling of him being in the arena, but not being able to play — it just doesn’t make sense to me,” said Brown. “But it’s nice to see him back in Barclays.”
Durant also failed to mine words, pointing a finger directly at Mayor Eric Adams.
“It’s ridiculous. I don’t understand it at all,” Durant said. “It seems like someones trying to make a point, or to flex their authority. I think that’s what the mayor’s trying to do.”
“Eric [Adams], you’ve got to figure this out — he can come to the game, but he can’t play?”
Ben Simmons, who the Nets acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers last month in exchange for James Harden, also missed the contest as he continues to work on his conditioning, with the expectation that he will return to action soon.
The Nets will now head back on the road to face the Orlando Magic on March 15, before hosting the Dallas Mavericks in Brooklyn on March 16.
The Knicks, meanwhile, will host the Portland Trailblazers on March 16, and then the Washington Wizards on March 18.