It was clear from the noise in the seats, even with only about 1,600 fans in presence.
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 campaign, leading the Brooklyn Nets to a 117-112 triumph over the Knicks.
Harden concluded with 21 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists in his first game versus 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 for the Knicks, 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 left.
“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 triumph 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 matches, even with Kevin Durant sitting out the last 12 of them with a strained left hamstring.
The Nets led by 18 late in the third quarter, but the Knicks had it down 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 left. The Knicks won the ensuing jump ball but Randle was called for traveling and 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. Brooklyn had an 18-point lead with under 2 minutes remaining in the half, but New York cut it to 67-55 at the break.
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.