Nets win thriller in Toronto, 119-116, for fifth straight
Nets fans owe Drederick Irving a thank you for one of Brooklyn’s most exciting wins of the season. According to Kyrie, his father “told me to balance under me every time he shot these three.” Well, when Kyrie made some dribbles to the right and hit Fred VanVleet with a patented snatch before lifting the shot with a majestic game-winning shot to give the Nets their ninth win in ten games… his footing was under him. . And he sent Brooklyn fans into euphoria.
There is no greater joy than seeing Irving operate. It’s the kick of the boomerang holding him in Brooklyn. This is not the time to describe the entirety of Irving’s experience. But watching him figure out ways to put the ball in the basket is reminiscent of the childhood wonder of falling in love with this game in the first place. It’s art, it’s magic, it’s amazing. Watching Kyrie dance with the game on the line though? It just amplifies the experience.
“He definitely has the inner peace and poise that you have to have in that situation, not to panic. He has an innate ability to get into his place,” said Jacque Vaughn. Only the truth.
But that was the end; Let’s start from the beginning. I wrote in the game preview that I was expecting a bit of a slow start for Brooklyn. There’s nothing against these new-and-improved Nets, but after three days’ rest against a Toronto team fast approaching the “make or break” point of their season, it seemed like a fitting recipe for it. “It certainly won’t be surprising if the Nets go down 13-4 or something. Long rest for them, Raptors team motivated, crowd cheering”, was the verbiage I used.
And that happened. The Nets just didn’t correct course as quickly. Toronto built an 18-point lead in the first half and turned Brooklyn’s half-court offense into yellow snow. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving each hit some hard shots to save the half, at least a bit, cutting it to 10 in the second quarter. But it didn’t feel sustainable. The ball was not moving; Toronto was dictating the terms of the engagement.
However, Brooklyn did what good teams do. Sure, Malachi Flynn turned in an amazing performance; Fred VanVleet put together his second straight solid outing. VanVleet is a good player though, it will happen. He was making tough shots. Through it all, you could see the influence of Jacque Vaughn permeating the product on the court. All the clichés came true: they turned up the intensity in the second half, they weathered the storm and everyone contributed.
Late in the third quarter, Brooklyn took their biggest lead of the game, four points. You knew we were in for a competitive fourth quarter against a team that, while underperforming, is certainly not one to be taken lightly. And that’s what we have. The Nets took a 105-97 lead, and everything seemed fine, but some tough offense and Scottie Barnes’ bully-ball wiped it out.
In his return to Toronto, Yuta Watanabe had the two biggest offensive plays of the night, without a shot from Kyrie. He set up this huge lead basket with a good drive and plate:
And then, of course, a go-ahead three-pointer set up by a great drive and plate from Kyrie Irving. What does it say about his bursting onto the scene that we had no doubt this was happening?
Who needs the KD offense when you have Yuta and Kyrie? KD got the better of D, albeit with a big unofficial block to prevent Scottie Barnes from converting a three-point lead play. And then Kyrie. What a victory!
the movie theater
In terms of X and O, Brooklyn overturned a stalemate, where their offense was too easy to protect:
Some clips from the first half (just caught up), starting with this ugly opening possession. Stalled, the ball went in with half the shot clock to go: pic.twitter.com/8UlqvGtP4d
—Lucas Kaplan (@LucasKaplan_) December 17, 2022
That’s not to say it was always easy, but the process was much better in the second half:
This is a really encouraging Brooklyn possession. Nothing easy, just like the first half, but he continued to attack closely and the ball ends up in the hands of the best player and Kyrie makes a play: pic.twitter.com/9vfVBSwjRH
—Lucas Kaplan (@LucasKaplan_) December 17, 2022
As usual though, the offense really shone in transition, or at least when the pace picked up. It’s not like Ben Simmons has to shoot the length of the floor with 22 on the shot clock for the offense to work, just a little oomph does the trick. Every time Toronto was on their heels enough to be unsure in their matchups, still fighting at the point of attack, good things happened:
The spacing is still a bit rough. Guys pass the ball and stay put, there’s a significant lack of relocation ability when neither Seth Curry nor Joe Harris are on the court. But process and the tempo improved a lot throughout the game.
Defensively it was a similar story, improved effort and whatnot. But boy, boy, do I have Nic Claxton to thank, who deserves his own article from him after delivering a game that should serve as a nice centerpiece for his fledgling all-defensive team campaign. Six blocks, countless contests at the basket, and continuous stops after switching to the perimeter. Here is just one example:
Many of them…
- Kevin Durant moved within one point behind John Havilchek on the all-time scoring list … and three behind Paul Pierce. KD, now 18th all-time, has 26,394 to Havilchek’s 26,395 and Pierce’s 26,397. He is 102 behind Tim Duncan for 15th place.
- Kyrie Irving’s game-winning buzzer is Brooklyn’s first since Brook Lopez on March 21, 2017 against Detroit.
- The Nets sweep Toronto’s season series 4-0 with tonight’s win. Since the Raptors’ inaugural season (1995-96), this marks the second time the Nets have swept the Raptors in a season (also: 2002-03).
- With the Nets winning in Toronto tonight:
— Fifth consecutive victory, the maximum of the season.
—Ninth win in his last 10.
–12th win in his last 15.
—Best three consecutive road wins of the season.
—18-12 record on the season (8-7 away from home).
- Nic Claxton (15 points, 10 boards) had a career-high six blocks.
Until next time
The Nets travel just south of the border to Detroit, for a Sunday night game against the rebuilding Pistons with a 6:00 pm ET forecast.