Well, it could have been worse for the New York Knicks.
Playing their crosstown rivals, they could have faced an intimidating trio of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden. But with Irving out for personal reasons and Harden not yet with the Nets following the trade that sent him away from the Houston Rockets, they instead lost 116-109 to a depleted Nets team on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
A 35-point second quarter was the key for the Nets, who held a 61-45 lead at the break and held on to improve to 7-6.
The Knicks, led by Julius Randle's 30 points, managed to keep pace in every frame except for the second quarter, trailing by one point after the first quarter and matching Brooklyn's 31 points in the third, but they couldn't catch up after the second.
- Kevin Durant, PF, Nets: 26 PTS (10-18 FG, 3-5 3PT, 3-4 FT), 6 AST
- Bruce Brown, SG, Nets: 15 PTS (6-13 FG, 0-2 3PT, 3-4 FT), 14 REB
- Julius Randle, PF, Knicks: 30 PTS (13-25 FG, 2-7 3PT, 2-2 FT), 7 REB, 5 AST
- Immanuel Quickley, SG, Knicks: 19 PTS (7-15 FG, 3-6 3PT, 2-3 FT), 3 AST
Judging the Bench Behind the Nets' New Big Three
The Nets are down to a bare-bones roster with Irving's continued absence and DeAndre Jordan's backup, Jarrett Allen, on the move to Cleveland along with backup forward Taurean Prince.
Durant was back in the lineup for Brooklyn on Wednesday, and there was plenty of opportunity to see how the recently shuffled bench will fit in behind its trio of stars once Harden arrives and Irving returns.
Durant led the scoring for the Nets, but four other players scored in double digits as well.
One of them was rookie Reggie Perry, who had appeared in four games leading up to Wednesday.
Jeff Green, who got the nod at small forward, tallied 11 points, and Bruce Brown finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds. The Nets bench chipped in 40 points.
Wednesday's outing proved that Brooklyn will be competitive even without its recently acquired Big Three.
RJ Barrett's Big Half Comes Too Late
The Knicks had an impressive start to the season, going 5-3 in their first eight games. But their recent skid has been just as noticeable. Heading into Wednesday, they had lost each of their last three games by at least 10 points, dropping to 5-6.
RJ Barrett, the No. 3 pick overall last season, has largely struggled in the early going. Through his first 11 games this season, he averaged 16.0 points and 7.6 rebounds, but he shot only 36.5 percent overall and 18.0 percent from three.
After starting the season by scoring double digits in seven consecutive games, he's been limited to nine on two separate occasions and 11 on another.
On Wednesday, he started the night by going 0-for-4, and he ended the first half with only two points, both of which came on first-quarter free throws.
He finally found his groove after the break and ended the night as the Knicks' second-leading scorer behind Julius Randle, recording a 14-point third quarter.
But it was too little, too late for the Knicks, who couldn't dig their way out of the 61-45 hole they found themselves in at halftime. But even amidst his slow start, Barrett could prove to be an important piece for the Knicks once he becomes more consistent.
The Nets will host the Orlando Magic on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET.
The Knicks are hitting the road to visit a player they were expecting to see Wednesday—former Nets center Jarrett Allen—and the Cleveland Cavaliers. That game tips off at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday.