New York Daily News

COMIN’ UP ‘BIG’ Forced to do it on his own, Kyrie drops 40 on Knicks

- BY STEFAN BONDY NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

1>15.

The Nets’ Big 3 was reduced to 1 on Monday night, and Kyrie Irving detonated the Knicks, 114-112. The crafty point guard dropped 40 points, then watched Julius Randle blow another clutch opportunit­y when his potential tying jumper clanged off the rim at the buzzer.

Irving was spectacula­r and the Knicks have a closing problem.

They allowed Jeff Green to secure an offensive rebound on the Nets’ final possession, which turned into game-winning free throws with four seconds remaining. Then Randle’s midrange jumper was off from release, sending him retreating to the tunnel with a second nail-biting defeat in Brooklyn over the last three weeks. The wayward final shot sullied a triple-double from

Randle, who is now shooting 1-for-7 this season when the score is tied or Knicks trail by no more than three points in the final 30 seconds. The Knicks (25-26) are 2-7 in games decided by three points or fewer.

Both Randle and RJ Barrett have proven ineffectiv­e in clutch situations.

“I just want to be on the other

side,” Barrett said. “I just want to be on the winning side. We see how close we are.”

Randle said he liked his look at the game winner.

“Something I practice every day,” said Randle, who appeared bothered by pain in his leg but played through it in the fourth quarter. “It felt good coming out of my hands it just didn’t go in.”

Two days before the game – and following a shellackin­g of the Pistons — Reggie Bullock said the

Knicks weren’t concerned with the Nets’ Big 3 because the Knicks have a “Big 15.” The idea was backed up by Randle and RJ Barrett, with an implicatio­n that the work of a balanced team is greater than individual stars. It may be appropriat­e in synchroniz­ed swimming, but not the NBA.

The Nets (35-16), without the bum hamstring duo of Kevin Durant and James Harden, completed a season-sweep of the Knicks, who’ve dropped four of their last five games. The visitors couldn’t stop Irving and couldn’t grab the most important rebound of the game.

“If you’re not making contact and you’re not driving them back, you’re vulnerable (on the boards),” Tom Thibodeau said. “We paid for it.”

Harden managed just four minutes before coming up limp and aggravatin­g his strained hamstring. He was quickly ruled out for the night, joining Durant and Blake Griffin on the inactive list. Durant has missed 23 straight games. Griffin took the day off.

The Knicks took advantage, at first.

They scored 34 in the first quarter and led by as many as 14 in the second quarter, with Randle nearly getting his triple-double at the break. He finished with 19 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists for his fourth triple-double of the season and third in his last 12 games.

The Nets, meanwhile, were closer to a G League outfit than a Super Team. Without their two stars and a few other rotational players, they were forced into lineups with Chris Chiozza, Bruce Brown, Alize Johnson and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.

But they won because of their one star: Irving.

“He’s a great talent,” Thibodeau said. “You’ve got to be on it the whole game. He creates easy offense for others too.”

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 ?? AP ?? Kyrie Irving knocks ball away from Knicks’ Julius Randle in Nets’ victory Monday night in Brooklyn.
AP Kyrie Irving knocks ball away from Knicks’ Julius Randle in Nets’ victory Monday night in Brooklyn.

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