In the season’s first installment of the N.B.A.’s answer to the Subway Series, the Nets held off the Knicks, 113-109, on Friday night.
Kyrie Irving didn’t score 50 points, as he had in Brooklyn’s season opener against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but he had plenty of help from his teammates — four of whom reached double figures in scoring — as the Nets picked up their first win of the Irving era.
Spencer Dinwiddie chipped in 20 points off the bench, while Joe Harris scored 13, Caris LeVert 12 and Taurean Prince 11. The second-year forward Rodions Kurucs contributed 9 more off the bench.
Not that Irving let his teammates slice through a porous Knicks defense all by themselves: Though he struggled from the field, he led the team with 26 points, shooting 8 for 19. He hit two 3-pointers in the final two minutes to save the Nets from what would have been a second straight home loss at the start of a season with steep expectations.
The Nets (1-1) dominated much of the game, leading by as many as 19 points in the second half. The Knicks (0-2) whittled the lead down in the fourth quarter — and eventually took it for themselves as the Nets went cold.
The game, though, was ultimately a measure of where the two teams stand in the N.B.A. hierarchy. One had a bona fide star, depth to back him up and a clear sense of direction. The other team was the Knicks.
There were plenty of Knicks fans in the Barclays Center stands, showing how much farther the Nets have to go to wrest the basketball affections of New York City fans. But Nets supporters taunted the Manhattan loyalists all night, with chants like “You are jealous!” and “You’ve got Dolan!” — a reference to the Knicks owner James Dolan, who is unpopular among much of the team’s fans.
Both teams had promising prospects making contributions on the floor, but the Knicks began the game with their rotation already shuffled for Game 2 of the season, with Elfrid Payton getting the start at point guard in place of Allonzo Trier.
And while Irving, the Nets’ star from free agency, hit multiple key shots in the fourth quarter, the Knicks’ top signing, Julius Randle, struggled the entire game, shooting 5 of 15 from the field and scoring 14 points. He also lost the ball out of bounds with 11 seconds — and a chance to tie the game — remaining.
The Knicks frequently looked disorganized. After Prince hit a 3-pointer on one of the first possessions of the second half for the Nets, Knicks Coach David Fizdale immediately called a timeout. The half was barely 30 seconds old.
A minute later, Prince hit another 3, pushing the lead to 19. But the Knicks’ 3-point shooting — 17 for 25 — brought them back into the fray. Wayne Ellington hit two straight from outside with about three and a half minutes left to give the Knicks a 1-point lead, and R.J. Barrett’s layup pushed it to 3 points, their biggest of the night.
In the end they had to settle for the consoling sight of strong performances from some of the young players who might be part of the Knicks’ core for years.
Trier, bouncing back from a disappointing opening night, scored 22 points off the bench on only seven shots. Kevin Knox, who had an inconsistent rookie year, added 16 points on eight shots, also off the bench. And Barrett, the team’s top draft pick, scored 16 points and had six steals as a starter, while showing poise down the stretch as the Knicks made their comeback.
But the night ultimately belonged to Irving and the Nets. After the final buzzer sounded, a jubilant Irving told a YES Network sideline host, “This is our home,” to the delight of the crowd, who serenaded him with “M.V.P.” chants. As he left the court, Irving found his father, exchanged a long embrace and then handed over the game jersey from his first victory as a Net.