Behind Irving’s 34, Nets beat Knicks in what felt like real rivalry game

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NEW YORK — It was clear from the noise in the seats, even with only about 1,600 fans in attendance.

It was obvious from the emotion on the court, where Julius Randle had to be restrained by Knicks teammates after the buzzer following a call that went against him in the final seconds.

New York’s basketball rivalry was alive and heated Monday night.

“I got a little taste of it tonight,” James Harden said.

Kyrie Irving scored 34 points and Harden posted his 10th triple-double of the season, leading the Brooklyn Nets to a 117-112 victory over the Knicks.

Harden finished with 21 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists in his first game against the Knicks since arriving in Brooklyn two months ago and turning the Nets into one of the NBA’s best teams.

Randle had 33 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, before a number of his teammates had to get off the bench to hold the All-Star forward back as he tried to get near the referees at midcourt.

He wouldn’t comment on his intentions, or the traveling call with the Knicks down three and 3.2 seconds remaining.

“I was just frustrated,” Randle said. “Obviously we fought so hard to come back and try to win the game, so I was just frustrated and that was pretty much it.”

The Nets agreed to the deal that brought Harden to Brooklyn on Jan. 13, playing short-handed that night at Madison Square Garden in a 116-109 victory over the Knicks. That made them just 7-6, but they are 20-7 since Harden’s arrival, including 19-4 when at least two of their three superstars play.

The Knicks also have played well, with a .500 record and an energized fan base that made its presence felt among the small crowd allowed in Barclays Center.

“These New York fans, especially the Knicks fans, you can hear them,” Harden said. “I don’t know how many fans we have in the building total, but you heard a lot of Knicks fans.”

Jeff Green scored 20 points as the Nets won for the 13th time in 14 games, even with Kevin Durant sitting out the last 12 of them with a strained left hamstring.

The Knicks cut an 18-point deficit to 115-112 after a dunk by Randle and then got the ball back when coach Tom Thibodeau successfully challenged a foul called on RJ Barrett with 7.7 seconds remaining. The Knicks won the ensuing jump ball and Randle tried to shoot a 3-pointer. Irving got his hand on the ball as Randle leaped and Randle dropped it after he landed and was called for traveling.

Crew chief Scott Foster said Irving didn’t dislodge the ball and Randle dropped it himself, making it a travel when he picked it up. He added that officials couldn’t hear anything Randle said after the buzzer.

Harden closed it out with two free throws.

The Nets made 70% of their shots and led by five after one quarter, then opened the second with a 14-2 spurt to take a 49-32 lead.

Barrett scored 23 points and rookie Immanuel Quickley had 21 in his first career start for the Knicks, who are in a tough stretch with Milwaukee, Brooklyn and Philadelphia, the top three teams in the Eastern Conference, in their first four games after the All-Star break.