Kyrie Irving’s buzzer leads Nets to comeback win over Raptors
TORONTO — Kyrie Irving has pulled off a litany of bigwigs, including one of the most memorable championship winners in history. But he had never hit an NBA buzzer, until Friday, when he hit both the buzzer and the Raptors.
Irving’s high-arc shot was at its apex when the final horn sounded. And when he cut the net, he delivered a 119-116 come-from-behind win over Toronto.
With the Nets coming off the mat to counterattack from 18 down, Irving delivered the knockout blow. He hit a couple of dribbles to the right, rocked Fred VanVleet with a step back and rocked the crowd of 19,800 at Scotiabank Arena with his 27-foot game-winner.
He gave the Nets (18-12) their fifth straight win, the most of the season, and the ninth in their last 10 games. Oh, and he gave Irving the first time that he will appreciate.
“It just comes with the confidence that we’re building here,” Irving said. “Jacque [Vaughn] he had another play called that we were about to execute. I and [Kevin Durant] We had a bit of dialogue, and we decided to perform the play for me. Good matchup against Fred and I just got the best of him that time.
“Who would have thought that I would come to Toronto and get my first game-winning goal in my NBA career? So, pray that there will be more to come. But I’m glad we got this one.”
Irving contributed 15 of his team-high 32 points in the fourth quarter. Durant finished with 28 and got the call for isolation, but told Vaughn he’d prefer the hot Irving.
“I felt like he was going to go into the full quarter, he made big shots, he made tough shots in the fourth,” Durant said. And he’s already cooking, so I don’t want to get in his way. So we keep finding it late in the game. He made some big shots.”
Durant knew the Raptors (13-16) would get him, but they wouldn’t double-team Irving for fear it would happen. And he was confident Irving could beat VanVleet, the diminutive guard who had a game-high 39 points.
He was right on both counts.
“He definitely has the inner peace and balance that you have to have in that situation to not panic,” Vaughn said. “…And he has an innate ability to get into his place.”
“Just playing for free. That’s the way he is – he’s a free spirit and he takes that approach on the court,” Durant said. “Never nervous, he never feels rushed. And we trust him. Once he got into the movement of him, it was a wide-open stare. He’s an all-time great shooter, so I had confidence as soon as he got up for the shot that he was going in. I’m sure everyone in Brooklyn and on the bench felt the same way.”
It was the Nets’ first ring since March 21, 2017 (Brook Lopez vs. Detroit), and it gave them a 4-0 sweep of the Raptors on the season.
Nic Claxton added 15 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high six blocks. Yuta Watanabe had 17 off the bench on 6-for-7 shooting against his former team.
Trailing, 62-44, with 1:17 left in the first half after Pascal Siakam’s 3-pointer, the Nets closed the half with eight unanswered points, which grew to a 14-0 run that extended through the intermission. .
It turned out to be the start of an extended 35-14 run that changed the game. The Nets were 10-of-13 and held Toronto to 5-of-18 shooting, including 0-of-6 from deep.
Durant gave the Nets the lead, and Watanabe rolled his finger on the fast break and made it 79-76 with three minutes remaining in the third.
The Nets shot 70 percent in the fourth after Irving’s outburst. The final period saw two ties and four lead changes, with Irving’s 3-pointer the last and most dramatic.
Irving had found Watanabe for a 3-pointer with 15 seconds remaining for a 116-114 lead. Toronto’s Scottie Barnes (26 points) tied it, but then Irving untied it.
“I felt like as soon as he made the shot, I knew he was going to go in,” Watanabe said. “From the corner, I was watching it. He looks perfect, so I knew he was going in.”