Spencer Dinwiddie triggered Knicks fans earlier this season when he proclaimed the Nets were the better New York City team. He was on the bench in sweats Friday night when his teammates went out and proved him right.
Even losing Dinwiddie to a thumb injury couldn’t slow the Nets’ roll as they came from behind to drill the Knicks 109-99 before 17,033 at Barclays Center.
And for a change, the arena wasn’t taken over by Knicks supporters streaming across the East River. It was filled with raucous fans actually cheering for the hottest team in the NBA, one that has embraced a next-man-up mentality.
“It’s a sign of a good program — when you can plug guys in that haven’t been playing or have been in the G-League and they can still produce at an NBA level,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “I’m not sure we’ve had that in the past, but I feel like right now we can plug guys in. We can go 15-deep and we trust them.”
Despite playing without Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Allen Crabbe — all injured — the Nets had six players in double figures, including four off the bench.
Theo Pinson had a team-high 19 points. Third-string guard Shabazz Napier filled in for Dinwiddie and had 18 points, attacking the rim and making the Knicks (10-37) pay for switches. And backup center Ed Davis had 17 points and 16 boards.
“It’s exciting. It’s kind of a roll that we all have. We all believe in each other. We all believe that once we step on the court we’re going to go out there and play as hard as we can for each other,” Napier said. “I play with a lot of heart and I just go out there and try my best to give any type of spark I can. Collectively we all did that.”
The Nets’ roll has reached an NBA-leading 19-5 since Dec. 7, the best 24-game span in Brooklyn history and tied for the best in team history. The Nets (27-23) are sixth in the Eastern Conference with a conference-best six-game winning streak. The Knicks dropped their league-worst eighth in a row, and 21 of their past 23.
“They just wanted it more than us,” said Tim Hardaway Jr., who shot just 2-for-14. “They got all the 50/50 basketballs. Some calls didn’t go our way, but we can’t control that. We just didn’t match their intensity. They came out with purpose, and we didn’t.”
The last time these teams met, a Dec. 8 Nets win at the Garden, they were essentially in the same spot. Two days earlier, they both were 8-18. But the Knicks have fallen into being an easy “W” for opponents, while the Nets have taken off.
Granted, the losses just bring the Knicks closer to the top overall pick in this year’s draft and Zion Williamson. They’re in full-on tank mode, and coach David Fizdale’s decisions show it.
After losing point guard Emmanuel Mudiay for two weeks with a shoulder strain, Fizdale opted to start Frank Ntilikina, who was ineffective and had four points. Trey Burke led the way with a team-high 25 off the bench.
But far more glaring, Fizdale refused to use persona non grata Enes Kanter, despite his history of torching the Nets. The center sat on the bench and waved at Nets fans as they taunted, “Where is Kanter?” The center even nodded in agreement when they chanted, “You need Kanter.”
Despite spotting the Knicks an 11-point first-half lead, the Nets knotted it at 60-all by halftime.
Hardaway gave the Knicks a 73-71 edge on a jumper with 7:05 left in the third. But the Nets took command with a 10-2 run.
Napier hit a pair of free throws to push the lead to 81-75 with 3:34 left in the third, and the Knicks folded in the fourth. D’Angelo Russell hit a 3-pointer to give Brooklyn a 101-86 lead with 7:21 to play, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson made it 104-87 midway through the fourth.