Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving, left, and New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson fight for a loose ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
NEW YORK — Kyrie Irving grew up in New York and New Jersey, so he knows better than most whether the Knicks against the Nets is a real rivalry.
“If the NBA calls it rivalry week, then it’s a rivalry,” Irving said.
Only a one-sided one.
Irving scored 21 of his 32 points in the final 9 1/2 minutes, carrying Brooklyn to its ninth straight victory over the Knicks, 122-115 on Saturday.
Irving’s sixth straight game of 30 or more points gave him a career high and the Nets an NBA franchise record. He didn’t seem headed that way when he was only 4 for 14 with 11 points early in the fourth quarter.
But he took over from there to make sure the Nets turned away every Knicks rally, including a deep 3-pointer with 50 seconds to play after New York was within five. The All-Star guard also had nine assists and six rebounds.
“That’s why it’s so great to have the basketball in his hands,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said. “He can attack by himself, he can draw and kick and the defense has to react.”
Joe Harris added 16 points and Nic Claxton had 13 points, 12 rebounds and six assists for the Nets. The NBA leader in field goal percentage shot 6 for 6. Royce O’Neale and Seth Curry chipped in 14 points apiece as Brooklyn finished 22 for 40 from 3-point range.
Jalen Brunson scored 26 points and RJ Barrett had 24 for the Knicks. They had won consecutive games against Eastern Conference contenders Cleveland and Boston.
But they can’t find a way to beat Brooklyn. The teams separated by about five miles made for a natural addition to the NBA’s “Rivals Week” schedule, now a decade since the Nets played their first season in Brooklyn following their move from New Jersey.
But the Knicks haven’t defeated the Nets in Tom Thibodeau’s 2/12 seasons and their last victory was on Jan. 26, 2020, when Kevin Durant still wasn’t playing for the Nets and Irving left Madison Square Garden after learning of Kobe Bryant’s death that afternoon.
“For me, I love beating the Knicks and playing against them, but all in all, it’s just about the objective and that’s to win the ballgame,” Irving said. “Nothing personal.”
The Knicks got the first basket of the fourth quarter, getting within five points as their fans were fully into the game after being held largely silent for 2 1/2 quarters. But Irving hit his next three shots, including a pair of 3-pointers, as Brooklyn went up 104-90.
“He made some tough plays. Those were deep 3s that he made on us,” Thibodeau said.
New York would later get within three, but Curry hit a 3 and Irving made a pair to keep Brooklyn safely ahead.
Playing without Durant and Ben Simmons, the Nets led by as much as 19 before the Knicks cut it to 88-81 after three.
Knicks: Thibodeau said starting center Mitchell Robinson, who had surgery Jan. 19 to repair a broken right thumb, is running and other work can do, but won’t know more about when he can return until after he is examined again, which was expected to be three weeks after the procedure. … Thibodeau said he didn’t feel any extra pressure after owner James Dolan said during a radio interview this week that he expected the Knicks to make the playoffs. “If you’re doing all you can each and every day, you never feel pressure,” Thibodeau said.
Nets: TJ Warren also missed the game with a bruised shin, an injury that coach Jacque Vaughn thought was a knee injury. … The Nets’ longest winning streak against the Knicks is 11 in a row from 1984-86.
HALL OF FAME FANS
Former Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who coached Irving, Barrett, Curry and Knicks reserve Cam Reddish, was at the game. Thibodeau was also one of his assistant coaches with the 2016 U.S. Olympic team. Former New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera was also in attendance.
Knicks: Host the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night.
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