Harden returned after missing two games with right hamstring tightness but lasted just four minutes before having to leave again with the same injury.
But even short-handed and on the second night of a back-to-back, the Nets had enough.
“It was a total team effort,” Irving said. “A lot of guys stepped up, especially our bench. They came in and made a difference, and when we got guys out, injury bug, we need that more than ever.”
Irving wore down the Knicks’ defense with his dazzling dribbling moves that freed up space for jumpers, including a 3-pointer with 59 seconds left after New York had closed within two.
“He’s just an amazing basketball player and he found a way to keep our team in it for big stretches,” coach Steve Nash said, “and a lot of guys played really well when he was out, gave us a lift and then he was able to come in and close. So, brilliant performance and really gutsy from everybody.”