NEW YORK — A roar arose inside Barclays Center and for one of the few times Sunday, Kevin Durant had nothing to do with it.
This time, it was Kyrie Irving walking through the crowd to take a seat across the court from the Nets bench, an unusual view for his first home game this season.
Durant said he looked over at teammate Andre Drummond on the foul line and they smiled.
“Yo, like this is unreal,” Durant said, describing their exchange. “Like, I’ve never seen nothing like this before.”
He then gave Irving a sensational show.
Durant scored a season-high 53 points, making the tiebreaking 3-pointer, and Brooklyn beat the New York Knicks 110-107.
Durant’s 3-pointer snapped a 103-all tie with 56 seconds remaining.
🚨 KD TAKES THE LEAD FOR THE NETS! 🚨@nyknicks 103@BrooklynNets 106
Under a minute remaining on ABC pic.twitter.com/gm266aGRZB
— NBA (@NBA) March 13, 2022
He added four more free throws to keep the Nets ahead, finishing one point shy of his career high.
Durant also had nine assists and six rebounds in his 60th career 40-point performance.
“That man’s insane,” teammate Bruce Brown said. “He makes everything look easy out there.”
Irving had a nice view, still unable to play in New York. There is no longer a mandate that spectators are vaccinated against the coronavirus, but there is still one requiring it for someone who works there. Irving has not been vaccinated.
So the star guard had a seat in the stands, just as he did a night earlier to watch his college team, Duke, lose in the ACC championship game. He walked off arm-in-arm with Durant toward the Nets locker room after the game ended.
Durant then spent a good chunk of his postgame interview calling on New York City Mayor Eric Adams to change the mandate, calling it “ridiculous” that unvaccinated people could be in the arena but not play in it.
Drummond had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Nets, who won their third straight. Brown scored 15 points.
Julius Randle scored 26 points and Evan Fournier had 25 for the Knicks, who finished 3-4 on their road trip. RJ Barrett had 24.
Durant scored 16 points in the first quarter and Brooklyn was ahead much of the way, but the Knicks rallied to take a 103-101 lead on Barrett’s basket. Drummond’s dunk tied it before Durant sprinted out to the wing to catch and fire in his fourth 3-pointer of the game. He finished 19 of 37 from the field.
“He’s one of the best to ever do it. So it’s tough when he gets hot like that,” Barrett said. “We did hold our own. It was a close game, we had opportunities, we had chances. But especially the shot he hit with a minute left was a big shot.”
It was a two-point game when Irving emerged to walk to his seats with just under 4 1/2 minutes remaining in the first half. He walked through the stands from the further tunnel, with some fans chanting “Free Kyrie! Free Kyrie!” as he walked by. He exchanged some hugs at his seat, where he sat maskless.
Coach Steve Nash said it isn’t harder for the Nets to play without Irving than it was when all the mandates were still in effect, because they haven’t allowed themselves to think they’re any closer to getting him.
“We’ve been let down by this process a lot of times in a sense,” Nash said. “We’re hoping and wanting him to be able to return, so we have not really, I think, put ourselves in a position to think it’s happening for sure. We just keep proceeding with the task that we can control. That’s getting better every day and obviously we wish he was back yesterday, but the reality is we only focus on what we can control.”