James Harden hurt again, but Kyrie Irving scores 40 to lead Nets over Knicks

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NEW YORK — Kyrie Irving scored 40 points, Jeff Green made two free throws with 3.7 seconds left and the Brooklyn Nets overcome the early loss of James Harden to beat the New York Knicks 114-112 on Monday night.

Harden returned after missing two games with right hamstring tightness but lasted just four minutes before having to leave again with the same injury.

But even short-handed and on the second night of a back-to-back, the Nets had enough.

“It was a total team effort,” Irving said. “A lot of guys stepped up, especially our bench. They came in and made a difference, and when we got guys out, injury bug, we need that more than ever.”

Irving wore down the Knicks’ defense with his dazzling dribbling moves that freed up space for jumpers, including a 3-pointer with 59 seconds left after New York had closed within two.

“He’s just an amazing basketball player and he found a way to keep our team in it for big stretches,” coach Steve Nash said, “and a lot of guys played really well when he was out, gave us a lift and then he was able to come in and close. So, brilliant performance and really gutsy from everybody.”

The Knicks scored five straight to tie it at 112 on Alec Burks’ 3-pointer and forced the ball out of Irving’s hands on Brooklyn’s next trip. Joe Harris missed a jumper, but Green got the rebound and was fouled.

After his free throws, Julius Randle missed a jumper as time expired.

Green scored 23 points and Joe Harris added 16 for the Nets, who won their eighth straight at home.

Randle had 19 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists in his fourth triple-double of the season. RJ Barrett scored 22 points and Reggie Bullock added 21, but the Knicks couldn’t hold a 14-point lead just before halftime.

“Well, I thought we had some costly turnovers that hurt us and the offensive rebounding hurt us,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “So I thought we played a very good first half, the start of the third was good, we didn’t close out the third well and then we fought at the end to have a shot at it.”

The Nets were hoping to finally be whole again this week, but now with Harden hurt again it’s unclear if they’ll be able to put either of their other superstars out there with Irving. Kevin Durant shot around before the game and Nash said he was hopeful the All-Star forward would be ready to play for the first time since Feb. 13.

“But it’s definitely not set in stone,” Nash said.

The Nets’ Big Three has played just seven times since Harden was acquired nearly three months ago.

Brooklyn led 51-50 with just over three minutes remaining in the half before Randle fed Bullock and Barrett for consecutive 3-pointers. Irving scored but New York answered with the next 11 points, with another 3-pointer by Bullock making it 67-53.

Irving went to the bench with the Knicks leading by seven with 3:15 to play in the third. But Brooklyn’s reserves sparked a 10-2 run to close the period and send the Nets to the fourth with an 89-88 edge.

TIP-INS

Knicks: The Knicks signed F/C John Henson to a 10-day contract. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed. The Knicks had already signed Norvel Pelle, another defensive-minded center, to a 10-day deal on Friday. Despite their similarities, Thibodeau said he likes the idea of getting a look at both players.

Nets: Blake Griffin rested his left knee on the second night of the back-to-back, just as he did last week. … Nash said G Tyler Johnson would likely miss two or three weeks rehabilitating a right knee injury, calling it encouraging that the injury wasn’t worse.

FIT TO BE TIED

The Nets tied the all-time series between the local rivals at 101 wins apiece. It’s even at 106 wins counting the postseason. The Nets swept the season series for the first time since 2014-15.

UP NEXT

Knicks: Visit Boston on Wednesday.

Nets: Host New Orleans on Wednesday.

Donovan says Lonzo Ball’s recovery has ‘been really slow’

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
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Watching the finger-pointing and heated moments between Bulls’ defenders on Wednesday night as Devin Booker carved them up to the tune of 51 points, one thought was how much they miss Lonzo Ball‘s defense at the point of attack.

Ball had a second surgery on his knee back in September and the team said he would be out at “least a few months.” It’s coming up on a few months, so Donovan gave an update on Ball and his recovery, and the news was not good for Bulls’ fans. Via Rob Schaefer at NBC Sports Chicago:

“It’s been really slow,” Donovan said when asked about Ball’s rehab. “I’m just being honest.”

Donovan added Ball has not necessarily suffered a setback. The Bulls knew this would be an arduous process. But he also noted that Ball is “not even close” to being cleared for contact or on-court work.

Ball had his first knee surgery in January and the expectation was he would be back and 100% by the playoffs. However, Ball’s knee didn’t respond well, and he was eventually ruled out for the season. Things didn’t improve over the summer, which led to the second surgery. How much do they miss him? The Bulls were 22-13 with him last season, and he averaged 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists, a game. However, it was his defense that was most crucial.

There is no timeline for his return. Which is not good news for Chicago.

PBT Podcast: Timberwolves without KAT, get Luka some help

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Minnesota has stumbled out of the gate this season, and now they will be without Karl-Anthony Towns for around a month with a calf strain. Just how much trouble are the Timberwolves in?

Corey Robinson from NBC Sports and myself discuss that and then get into Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s Team USA vs. Team World matchup — does Evan Fournier get the world team in trouble? Who guards whom?

From there, it’s time for Corey’s Jukebox and some New Orleans jazz for Zion Williamson. Some Mavericks’ talk follows that — Dallas has put a big load on the shoulders of Luka Doncic, and while he’s playing like an MVP it’s a long-term concern for the Mavericks and their fans.

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

LeBron calls out reporters for asking him about Kyrie Irving but not Jerry Jones

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Within days of Kyrie Irving being suspended by the Nets in the wake of a Tweet promoting an antisemitic film (and his initial refusal to apologize for it), Irving’s former teammate LeBron James was asked about it. He had to deal with the controversy, saying, “I don’t condone any hate to any kind. To any race.”

At the end of his press conference Wednesday night after the Lakers beat the Trail Blazers, LeBron scolded the assembled press for not asking him about the 1957 photo that surfaced of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones outside North Little Rock High School while white students protested the integration of the school when they had been quick to ask about Irving.

“When I watched Kyrie talk, and he says, `I know who I am, but I want to keep the same energy when we’re talking about my people and the things they’ve been through,’ and that Jerry Jones photo is one of those moments that our people, Black people, have been through in America. And I feel like as a Black man, as a Black athlete, someone with power and with a platform, when we do something wrong or something that people don’t agree with, it’s on every single tabloid, every single news coverage. It’s on the bottom ticker. It’s asked about every single day.

“But it seems like to me that the whole Jerry Jones situation, the photo, and I know it was years and years ago, and we all make mistakes, I get it. It seems like it’s just been buried under, like, `Oh, it happened. OK. We just move on.’ And I was just kind of disappointed that I haven’t received that question from you guys.”

Irving and LeBron were teammates in Cleveland and won a ring together, there was a direct connection (plus Irving had been linked to the Lakers in trade rumors over the summer).

However, there was a connection between LeBron and the Cowboys as well. LeBron was for many years a very public Cowboys fan (despite growing up in Browns territory). It came up as recently as October, when LeBron was on Instagram Live promoting his HBO show with Maverick Carter “The Shop” and he said he had stopped rooting for the Cowboys in the wake of Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protests, “There’s just a lot of things that were going on when guys were kneeling. Guys were having freedom of speech and wanting to do it in a very peaceful manner…. The organization was like, ‘If you do that around here, then you will never play for this franchise again.’ I just didn’t think that was appropriate.”

When asked about the photo, Jones said he was a curious 14-year-old who was watching and didn’t understand the magnitude of the moment or situation.

Watch Russell Westbrook drain two buzzer-beaters against Blazers

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The Portland Trail Blazers had to know it was not their night when Russell Westbrook knocked down a buzzer-beating step-back 3-pointer just before the half.

Westbrook wasn’t done, he had one more buzzer-beater in him at the end of the third.

Westbrook wasn’t the only guy in the building draining half-courters — for the second-straight game a Laker fan knocked down a half-court shot, this time to win $25,000.

It was a good night all around for the Lakers and their fans at home against the shorthanded Trail Blazers. They got 31 points from LeBron James, plus 27 points and 12 boards from Anthony Davis. Austin Reaves added in 22, and the Lakers took control in the third and cruised in for a needed win.