Knicks: Is Evan Fournier really a big upgrade over Reggie Bullock?

evan fournier, knicks

After a solid season from Reggie Bullock, the New York Knicks elected to let him hit free agency in search of a new team. Averaging 10.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, and shooting 44% from the field, Bullock was one of the players who could’ve reached an extension with the Knicks, but instead, they elected to retain Nerlens Noel, Derrick Rose, and Alec Burks. Bullock was, unfortunately, the odd man out, despite shooting 41% from three-point range and 90% from the free-throw line.

Ultimately, Bullock is a spot shooter that rarely creates opportunities for others, which could be viewed as a negative as more pressure was placed on players like Julius Randle and RJ Barrett to make something out of nothing. To supplement the departure of Bullock, the Knicks went out and signed Evan Fournier to a four-year, $73 million deal with an out after the third season. He will earn an average of about $18 million per season, a contract that dwarfs Bullock’s deal with the Dallas Mavericks. Reggie signed a three-year, $30 million deal, similar to the contract Burks’s landed with New York.

However, when looking at Fournier’s statistics, he averaged 17.1 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and shot 45.7% from the field. He also connected on 41.3% of his shots from three-point range and is a career 80% shooter from the free-throw line.

Right off the bat, there is a tremendous difference and assists between Fournier and Bullock, and the French native also got to the free-throw line about three times as much as a former Knick.

The statistics start to lean heavily in favor of Evan when looking at field goals made unassisted. For example, last season, Fournier averaged 37.2% of his points on unassisted shots, while Bullock sat at 6.5%. This essentially details Fournier’s ability to creating his own opportunities while Bullock feasts off of other’s hard work and being in the right place at the right time.

97.5% of Bullock’s three-point field goals were on assists, while Fournier landed at 78.6%, a significant difference that tells a story between the two players. Fournier posted 21.4% on three-point field goals unassisted, while Bullock finished at 2.5%. Defensively, Fournier is more efficient stealing the ball, averaging 1.1 steals per game compared to Bullock’s 0.8. However, Bullock offers better perimeter defending with his length and athleticism whereas Fournier has been susceptible to more athletic shooting guards in the past. With an extra inch of height, Evan does have slightly better-blocking percentages and totals over Bullock, but both are rather irrelevant in the category.

Both averaged about 30 minutes per game on the floor, but Fournier contributed seven more points, justifying a more significant contract. While the Knicks might’ve overpaid a bit for his services, there is no question he is a better player and will provide an upgrade at the shooting guard/small forward position.

Knicks: Is Evan Fournier an upgrade over Reggie Bullock?

evan fournier, knicks

When Evan Fournier woke up Tuesday morning after beating Italy in the quarterfinals of the Olympics, he made the decision to sign with the New York Knicks on a four-year, $78 million contract. With former small/shooting guard Reggie Bullock taking his talents to the Dallas Mavericks on a three-year, $30.5 million deal, Fournier’s contract seems a bit overzealous.

The Knicks are paying Evan twice as much as Bullock received on the open market, but they are getting a vastly different player in return, despite the fact they both play similar positions.

Evan Fournier stats:

-17.1 points

-3.1 assists

-1.1 steals

-45.7% from the field

-41.3% from 3-PT, 6.7 attempts per game

-78.8% free throw shooter, 3.3 attempts per game

Reggie Bullock Stats:

-10.9 points

-1.5 assists

-0.8 steals

-44.2% from the field

-41% from 3-PT, 6.1 attempts per game

-90.9% free throw shooter, 0.8 attempts per game

How does Fournier compare to Bullock, and what are the Knicks gaining in the French-born player?

Simply looking at the statistics, you can already see that Fournier offers far more scoring production, nearly doubling Bullocks’ total from last season. Traditionally, the former Boston Celtic and Orlando Magic shooter is a double-digit scorer throughout his career, posting a high of 18.5 during the 2019–20 season.

Bullock was best known for his catch-and-shoot abilities, especially when spacing the floor and picking out three attempts without much resilience. Fournier is able to create his own shots and spread the ball around the floor, given his 3.4 assists compared to Bullock’s 1.5. He also contains the ability to drive to the rim, which allows them to pick up more fouls, attempting 3.3 free throws per game compared to Reggie’s 0.8.

While their three-point shooting is eerily similar at around 41%, in almost every other category, Fournier has double the statistics that Bullock put up last year, indicating he is deserving of the contract. $20 million per season might be in overpay for a complementary piece, but Fournier is capable of taking pressure off Julius Randle and allowing him to operate, especially during the postseason when all eyes are on him.

Fournier should offer a great pairing with RJ Barrett, with his ability to space the floor and open up lanes for Barrett to drive to the rim. Ultimately, his ability to create shots for himself and open up opportunities for others is why the Knicks elected to sign him over retaining Bullock. However, the front office showed their loyalty, bring back Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks, and Derrick Rose on three-year deals.

We should expect about double the production from the Frenchman compared to Bullock, which correlated directly to his price tag.

Report: Knicks will ‘likely’ work out deal with PG Derrick Rose, Reggie Bullock signs with Dallas

new york knicks, derrick rose

With the Knicks retaining two of their own in Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks, the expectation is that they will “likely” work out an extension for point guard Derrick Rose, per Marc Berman of the NY Post.

Noel signed a three-year, $32 million deal and Burks a three-year, $30 million contract at the opening of free agency, and while Rose hasn’t yet made it official, they’re looking to bring him back.

Rose could be in line for a nice pay raise after signing a two-year, $14 million deal with the Detroit Pistons during the 2019 off-season. Last season with New York, Rose averaged 14.9 points, 4.2 assists and shot nearly 49% from the field. He logged a career-high 41% from three, showcasing he still has gas left in the tank.

Without Rose, the Knicks likely wouldn’t have secured the 4th seed in the Eastern conference, and bringing him back to provide mentorship for players like Immanuel Quickley and rookie guard Miles McBride could be beneficial.

At 32-years-old, Rose played in 50 games last year, and while he doesn’t represent a long-term solution for the team, they could bring him back on a one-year deal, which would allow them to clear cap space and target a high profile free agent during the 2022 off-season. With players like Bradley Beal and Zach LaVine expected to be available on the market barring an extension, clearing as much space will be essential.

However, the three-year contracts the team signed with Burks and Noel will tie up a bit of money, but nothing they can’t overcome with the cap expected to rise over the next few seasons and plenty of youth to supplement any deficiencies down the road.

Rose has plenty to offer despite his last All-Star appearance coming in 2011.

In addition, Knicks small forward/shooting guard Reggie Bullock is preparing to sign with the Dallas Mavericks, opening up the door for a potential deal between New York and Evan Fournier.

Bullock served a solid purpose last season but had limitations beyond being a catch-and-shoot specialist. He played spotty defense and was inconsistent at times. Fournier would offer a pure playmaker who can create shots for himself rather than require good floor spacing and open shots to be effective.

Knicks News, 7/22: Kelly Oubre details what he would bring the New York, Bullock should be retained

Kelly Oubre, knicks

The New York Knicks will be active during free agency this year, and one player they have been connected to is Golden State Warriors small forward Kelly Oubre Jr.

Oubre is a 6’7”, 203-pound left-handed shooter, which would add another diverse player to a team that already has two lefties with Julius Randle and RJ Barrett.

During the 2020-21 season, Oubre averaged 15.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, and shot 44% from the field. While he only connected on 31.6% of the shots from three, averaging 5.2 attempts per game, he started off the season very poorly, which dragged down his statistical total.

Overall, Oubre has the potential to be a great 3-and-D player under head coach Tom Thibodeau, and he indicated that recently.

Ian Begley and Chris Williamson hosted Kelly Oubre Jr. on “The Putback” podcast, where the Golden State small forward raved about the Knicks’ season last year:

“I am just looking for defense, hard-nosed defense, scrappy, fast-paced, athletic, open floor offense. That is what I thrive in and kind of just getting after it man, having a team for the hard nosed dog individuals, that’s ideal.”

When asked about joining a scrappy Knicks team, Oubre stated:

”To come in and to help help the organization get better. They’ve already started, the uphill trajectory of what they’re trying to get to with this past year, having a great season and balling out, RJ coming into his own, everybody really coming into their own and making a family unit. That was pretty much the biggest thing and that is why I feel like Tom Thibodeau had a very big part in that.”

It seems as if Kelly is seeking a multi-year deal, and the Knicks have plenty of cap room to make that happen if they view him as a long-term solution a small forward. They would essentially be replacing Reggie Bullock with Oubre at a higher price point.

Factoring in the decrease in three-point efficiency but advanced defense, they would be trading one strength for another. Bullock hit on 41% of his 3-PT attempts last year and is drawing interest from teams like the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, and even the Los Angeles Lakers.

Marc Berman of the New York Post reported that Bullock will be sought after this off-season, so the Knicks will have to fend off other teams if they want to keep the 30-year-old Maryland native. He averaged 10.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, and shot 44% from the field this past year, averaging 30 minutes per game.

Ideally, New York would retain Bullock, who stated he prefers to stay with the club and continue building upon their success this past season.

Report: Knicks could lose Reggie Bullock in free agency as Celtics and 76ers have interest

Reggie Bullock of the New York Knicks

One of the Knicks’ more coveted free agents is shooting guard/small forward Reggie Bullock, who signed a two-year, $8.2 million deal during the 2019 free agency. He earned just $4.2 million last season, contributing heavily toward the Knicks’ postseason run, shooting a stellar 41% over 6.1 attempts from three-point range. He averaged 10.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, and contributed 0.8 steals on defense.

Overall, the Knicks got ample value from a player who was making insignificant money last season, but he is set to earn a nice payday for his services. If the Knicks theoretically bring him back on a one-year deal, they could offer him $5.46 million, with the difference from his 2020-21 salary not included in the team’s cap space.

There will be competition for Bullock in free agency, as other teams have already expressed interest apparently.

Marc Berman of the NY Post reported that multiple teams have interest in Knicks’ free agent, Reggie Bullock:

According to an NBA source, two Atlantic Division squads, the Celtics and 76ers, have interest in Knicks swingman Reggie Bullock, who started all season at either shooting guard or small forward.

The Knicks will have plenty of competition for Bullock’s signature:

Not only do the Celtics and 76ers have Bullock on their list, but the Los Angeles Lakers could also enter the picture, Berman reports. While his preference is to stay in New York, likely commanding a $9.23 million full mid-level exception deal, it is possible he seeks a multi-year contract, giving him some job security.

As a player who averaged 30 minutes per game, the highest of his entire career, he offered the team plenty on both sides of the floor, hitting a few clutch shots down the stretch to help the Knicks secure the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference.

Hopefully, they can retain him on an efficient contract without having to overspend for a player like Duncan Robinson of Miami. Otherwise, there will be plenty of free-agent targets to consider.

Knicks News, 7/14: Luca Vildoza opening eyes with 3-point shooting, Reggie Bullock a retention candidate?

luca vildoza, knicks

If there’s anything to take away from New York Knicks point guard Luca Vildoza’s performance with the Argentinian National Team, it is his stellar three-point shooting (8-of-19 over three games). While Argentina lost their third consecutive game during exhibition play in Las Vegas, with their most recent coming against Team USA, Vildoza was one of the only bright spots for his squad.

Having lost by 28 points, Luca understands that he must pick up the intensity, but he had the opportunity to guard some of the best players in basketball, including Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, Zack LaVine, and Darius Garland.

Gaining essential experience against quality players will hopefully provide him a bit of momentum as he prepares to take on the NBA over a full season next year. Vildoza is excited to join New York on a four-year contract, and with Elfrid Payton and Derrick Rose hitting free agency, the 25-year-old is currently one of the only point guards on the active roster.

“I’m really happy to be part of the historic team,’’ Vildoza to The Post about signing with the Knicks prior to the end of the 2020-21 season. “I’ve been saying this for the last two months. For me, it’s a dream since I was a child, I was dreaming of this day. When I got there, coach was there. I’ve been talking to him — one of the best coaches in the league. It’s so special. This is my chance to get here and get through to my dream.’’

Hopefully, Thibodeau will have a positive impact on Luca as he transitions to the NBA. Based on what we saw last season and the elevation of multiple players, we can imagine how his game will improve and progress at the next level. He undoubtedly has the right coaching staff and personnel around him to spur growth.

“I’ve [been] doing this last two, three years in Europe and I know I can do it here,” said Vildoza. “Today was a test for me against the best players in the world. I felt really good against them, but we lost by 30, and I got to get better. I got work to do.’’

So the Knicks consider retaining Reggie Bullock?

One player New York could look to bring back is small forward Reggie Bullock, who is an unrestricted free agent this off-season. Having signed a two-year, $8.2 million deal in 2019, Bullock served an efficient purpose, averaging 10.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, and connected on 41% of his three-point attempts over 6.1 shots per game. Overall, he had a positive impact on the roster last season, so bringing him back could be a productive move, considering his price tag and the fact he averaged 30 minutes per game.

Aside from Bullock‘s obvious qualities on offense, he was a solid defender for the Knicks and has the versatility to play shooting guard as well. At 30 years old, he might earn a tad more based on his season last year, which included career-high minutes per game, but it shouldn’t be anything worth ignoring his value over.

What do you think about the idea of retaining Bullock? Comment below!

Knicks: One player who isn’t receiving enough recognition for his contributions

new york knicks, julius randle, reggie bullock

In a glorious overtime victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday, the New York Knicks stretched their win streak to five. Thanks to another stellar performance from Julius Randle and point guard Derrick Rose, the rise of the Knicks continues, winning by 10 points thanks to a timely bucket from one of the most underappreciated players on the roster.

With about seven seconds left on the clock, New York received a final opportunity to tie the game, as Rose looked to drive to the rim but instead kicked it out to Reggie Bullock, who drained a three-point shot to give the Knicks another chance at life. They didn’t squander their opportunity, seemingly blowing out the Pelicans in overtime. They are now four games above .500, and Bullock deserves more recognition than he’s being given on a daily basis.

Bullock earned 15 points against the Pelicans, playing in 37 minutes and hitting 3-of-5 shots from downtown. On the season, he’s averaging 9.9 points, his highest average in two years. He’s also averaging a career-high 3.3 rebounds and shooting nearly .400 on 5.6 3-point attempts per game.

After the game, Rose was interviewed after scoring 23 points and dishing the most important assist of the game to Reggie. Humbly, he gave the credit to Bullock, who has proven to be a reliable option when given an opportunity with a clean look at the basket.

“I thought about shooting it at first, but I saw Reggie in the corner,” Rose said in his postgame on-court interview. “I delivered it on the spot and Reg is a great shooter.”

NOLA head coach Stan Van Gundy indicated how his team failed to lock down the play, but it is more of a testament to how well the Knicks are performing as of late and finding open shots.

“There was no lack of clarity,” Van Gundy said after Reggie’s game-tying shot with seconds left on the clock. “We made two mistakes on the play. We screwed up the play. When we do that, we deserve to lose…I don’t care if you’re a senior in high school, you should execute what to do with 7.8 seconds left.”

Bullock is currently on a two-year, $8.2 million deal with the Knicks and is earning $4.2 million this season, entirely guaranteed. He’s in the final year of his contract. At 29 years old, he’s proving to be an integral part of the starting unit at small forward, and I believe he has a future in New York, even as a bench piece if the Knicks find a better option.

Nonetheless, the Knicks are winning with their current group of players, and that includes Bullock as an everyday starter, which suggests that he is not only an adequate defender but is clearly capable of hitting clutch shots.

Rose, Bullock’s heroics keep Knicks’ hot streak alive

new york knicks, derrick rose

Derrick Rose and Reggie Bullock refused to let the New York Knicks‘ feel-good win streak to end.

Not just yet.

The two veterans teamed up in the clutch to save the Knicks from the jaws of defeat as New York overcame a seven-point deficit late to stun the New Orleans Pelicans, 122-112, in overtime.

The 1,981 crowd at The Garden roared to life on Sunday afternoon when Bullock drained a corner three off a Rose assists with 2.3 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime.

“I thought about shooting it at first, but I saw Reggie in the corner,” Rose told Knicks courtside reporter Rebecca Haarlow in his postgame interview. “I delivered it on the spot, and Reg is a great shooter.”

Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy was miffed of his team’s inability to close out the game.

Lonzo Ball, who made the defensive blunder on that Bullock game-tying triple, was benched in the overtime.

Rose and Bullock continued their stellar play in the extra time while Julius Randle hit the dagger three to beat the shot clock and extended the Knicks’ lead to eight with 54.3 seconds remaining.

Rose scored a season-high 23 points and had five assists in 35 minutes while Bullock added 15 and three triples—the last two came at the perfect time when the Knicks needed it.

The veteran duo picked up the slack for RJ Barrett, who fouled out with still four minutes left in regulation. The sophomore wing had 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting before he left the floor.

Randle matched Pelicans’ bull-strong Zion Williamson basket for basket. But unlike Williamson, Randle had plenty of help.

Randle overcame a scoreless first quarter and still wound up with 33 points, becoming the first Knicks player since Carmelo Anthony in 2014 to log in four straight 30-point game. He added five rebounds and a game-high 10 assists, and five steals.

Williamson came away with 34 points, nine boards, and five dimes, but it wasn’t enough.

The Knicks blew a 13-point first half lead, with Eric Bledsoe dropping 13 of his 22 points in the third quarter.

In the fourth frame, the Pelicans went on a 7-0 run to break from a 92 deadlock. A Ball reverse layup capped off that run to make it 99-92 for the Pelicans with 3:44 left.

Then Rose took over, firing six of the next Knicks’ eight points that kept the Knicks within three, 101-98, and setting up Bullock’s heroics.

In a typical Knicks fashion this season, their collective effort proved to be they key to pulling out another gut-wrenching win.

Nerlens Noel and the 35-year old veteran Taj Gibson continued to hold the fort for the injured Mitchell Robinson.

Noel contributed 12 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks in starting role while Gibson hauled down 14 rebounds that went with six points, two assists, and two swats in 24 minutes off the bench.

Rookie Immanuel Quickley also came up with heady plays and was a game-high plus-24. He put up eight points and three assists off the bench.

The six-game winning streak, the franchise’s longest since 2014, has kept the Knicks (31-27) firmly at sixth place in the East.

They will have their next five games at home, where they are 18-10 this season.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

From Zero to Hero: Bullock’s steal saves Knicks from Magic’s spell

In a game they desperately needed to win, the New York Knicks found a way to pull through in the end.

Reggie Bullock turned from zero to hero, while Julius Randle took on the playmaking mantle.

The undermanned Knicks survived the Orlando Magic’s scare, 94-93, Thursday night in front of a delirious 2,000 crowd at The Garden.

For the second straight game, the Knicks lost a lead in the fourth quarter, and for the third consecutive game, it came down to the last possession. But this time, they did not cave in to pressure.

An Evan Fournier three-pointer off a Bullock turnover set up the dramatic finish.

Fournier won the tip after forcing Bullock to a jump ball with 22.4 seconds left. Coming from a Magic timeout, Bullock redeemed himself with a steal off Fournier in the final 5.9 seconds to seal the win.

“My mindset is that I just turned it over,” Bullock said after his teammates mobbed him. “I knew I had to step up on the defensive end and get a stop.”

Bullock also stepped up on the offensive end, firing 20 points with six triples to carry the Knicks’ bench as he swapped roles with Alec Burks, who also thrived as a starter.

Thibodeau was forced to make the switch as the Knicks played without their top three point guards—Elfrid Payton (hamstring), Derrick Rose (healthy and safety protocols), and Immanuel Quickley (ankle)—and with Frank Ntilikina struggling since the All-Star break.

Burks scored 21 and added 10 assists, but it was Randle who stepped up big time, dishing out a career-high 17 assists, the most by a non-guard in Knicks history.

Randle also completed his third triple-double of the season with 18 points and 10 rebounds, becoming the first Knicks player to have three or more triple-doubles in a season since Michael Ray Robinson had seven in 1981-82.

Ntilikina broke out of his slump and pumped in 13 points, mainly from Randle’s setup. The embattled French guard hit two three-pointers in rhythm in the second half to get it rolling before soaring for an And-1 play over Magic center Nikola Vucevic for his night’s highlight. He also hit a corner clutch three that put the Knicks on top, 88-87, with 3:49 left.

RJ Barrett also continued his solid play with 17 points and nine rebounds.

“We just said we need to win the game by any means necessary, and that’s what we did. Guys stepped up, and I’m proud of our team,” Randle said.

It was a character-building win for the Knicks, who almost squandered a 16-point lead in the second half.

After Randle’s three-pointer put them comfortably on top, 72-56, the Magic responded with a 10-0 run to end the third quarter only down by six.

Orlando continued to cast its magic spell and dropped a 9-2 run to take a 75-74 lead. The Magic held a five-point lead twice in the fourth quarter, but the Knicks kept on scratching and clawing back before snatching the much-needed win that moved them back to .500.

The Knicks (21-21) have now matched their total wins last season and move two victories away from breaking the Las Vegas preseason odds (22.5 wins) with still 30 games left.

“Look, I don’t care how we do it. I just want to win. But I thought, you know, just find a way to win,” Tom Thibodeau said.

And the Knicks did.

Their collective spirit pulled them out of the rabbit hole. Their chemistry made all the parts play as a whole.

It was a delight to see them celebrate with such joy. But things can change in an instant if the trade deadline brings a new fancy toy.

”This is the time of the year every team is talking to every team. ‘If [management] feels it can help our team, I’m sure they’ll take a hard look at it,” Thibodeau said before the game.

But he was quick to add: “I love the guys that we have, so that’s all I focus on. Whoever’s here, that’s what we’re working with. And if something’s good for us and they make a move, that’s great, too.”

Watching their special bond play out this night makes you think the front office will ride it out with this group.

But who knows?

We’ll know more what these Knicks are really made of when they take on the Philadelphia 76ers in a grudge rematch on Sunday night.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Anti-climactic ending in Atlantic: Knicks’ comeback falls short in Nets’ nest

New York Knicks, Immanuel Quickley

It was an enthralling match with the trappings of a high-stakes playoff game where the stranglehold of a basketball city so desperate to get back to NBA relevance hung in the balance.

It was the old power New York Knicks against the new order Brooklyn Nets in Atlantic Avenue.

In the end, a controversial call failed to give it a fitting finish as the Nets escaped with a 117-112 win on Monday night.

Perhaps this would be the start of a heated rivalry between the two resurgent New York teams.

Kyrie Irving saved the Nets from a complete meltdown with a swipe to Julius Randle’s three-point attempt to send the game into overtime. Randle went down with the ball and dribbled that earned him a traveling call.

It was an anti-climatic finish to a riveting game that had its ebb and flow.

The Nets came into the game the heavy favorites even without arguably their best player, Kevin Durant. They still had two of the best guards in the league in Irving and James Harden.

The Knicks tried to counter the Nets’ firepower by inserting the streak shooting rookie Immanuel Quickley into the starting lineup. For a while, it worked as the Knicks, behind Reggie Bullock’s red-hot shooting, led by seven early on, 18-11.

But it was just a matter of time before the Nets’ overwhelming talent took over the game. They extended a five-point lead to 17, 49-32, on a back-breaking 14-2 run at the onset of the second quarter. The Knicks’ second-unit offense suffered without Quickley. Frank Ntilikina continued to struggle, coming up empty in five attempts.

Brooklyn was led by as many as 18 and appeared cruising to an easy win, an encore of its 116-109 win at The Garden on the day the Nets completed the blockbuster Harden trade.

Harden had his first taste of the New York rivalry and quickly stamped his signature. He finished with his 10th triple-double (21 points, 15 rebounds, and 15 assists) of the season and became the first Nets player to register a triple-double with at least 15 points, 15 rebounds, and 15 assists.

“The New York fans, especially the Knicks fans, you can hear them. I don’t know how many fans we have in the building in total, but you heard a lot of Knicks fans. We understand the tradition, but I’m just happy to be part of the rivalry,” Harden said.

He would hear more of them once the arenas would welcome back fans at full capacity. But despite having only 1,600 people allowed for the game, the Knicks fans led by celebrity Spike Lee engulfed the Barclays Center, especially during the fourth quarter.

But they were silent for much part of the game when the Nets’ offense was humming.

Irving, who Blake Griffin described in his pre-game interview as a “creative scorer,” scored in a variety of ways — pull-up jumper, crossover, and stepback jumper, nasty drives, three-pointers with hand on his face.

The Knicks tried but could not contain Irving, the New Jersey native and a self-confessed Nets fan growing up. He led the Nets with 34 points on efficient 13-of-18 shooting.

The Knicks, though, did not back down from the challenge. They showed plenty of fight, and their grittiness enabled them to storm back from an 18-point third-quarter deficit and came within a three-point basket from forcing overtime.

Quickley, the rookie sensation out of Kentucky, did not disappoint in his first NBA career start. He had 21 points but fell silent in the fourth quarter.

It didn’t matter as Randle found his rhythm late, pouring in 12 points in the Knicks’ late fightback. He was furious after the traveling call and had to be restrained by his teammates, the Knicks coaching staff, and even William Wesley, the team’s executive vice president.

Randle tried to match Irving and Harden’s star power during crunch time, but his effort went down the drain with that call. Randle collected 33 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, and three steals.

Barrett ended up with 23 points, six rebounds, and four assists after a rough start to the game. Bullock and Alec Burks had 19 and 12, respectively, combining for seven of the Knicks’ 15 triples.

After surviving the Knicks’ blistering start, the Nets’ supercharged offense overwhelmed the Knicks’ defense. Brooklyn shot 70 percent in the first quarter to take a 35-30 lead after being down by seven. The Nets ended up with 58 percent, still far from Tom Thibodeau’s liking.

If the Nets were silky-smooth on offense, the Knicks lived to fight with their grittiness that earned them 27 trips at the line. They hit 24 free throws that helped them hang with the Nets.

Their defense was air-tight in the closing moments, forcing two jump balls in the final 10.8 seconds of the game.

All the Knicks wanted was a shot at winning the game. They had their chances but couldn’t capitalize. And in the end, the breaks of the game didn’t go Manhattan’s way.

On the flip side, for all the talks that the Nets are just all offense, they leaned on defense to pull out this win. Irving, despite the controversial call, took care of business and made a game-winning defensive stop.

Crew chief Scott Foster explained after the game that it was the correct call.

“The defender (Irving) was deemed to touch the ball but not cause it to be dislodged or loose. Upon that, when the player (Randle) alights, he cannot purposely drop the ball or dribble the ball or be first to touch after he dropped the ball,” Foster said.

The Brooklyn franchise collected stars to establish a new order and try to end a New York tradition.

But not so fast.

The Knicks won’t give up their grip on the city without a fight. Monday night’s game was a testament.

The close call was the Nets’ 100th win over the Knicks, who hold a slim one-win edge in their all-time head-to-head matchups. The Nets could tie it with a regular season-sweep on April 5.

Brooklyn has a firm grip of the second spot in the East with a 27-13 record, half a game behind Philadelphia, after extending their winning streak to five.

The Knicks slipped to 20-2, still good for seventh place in the East.

A Knicks-Nets playoff matchup should be a perfect treat for New York fans.

But for that to happen, the Knicks should continue to defy the odds.

They will try to close out the tough four-game road trip to start the second half with a victory in Philadephia against the Sixers, the current best team in the East.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo