K.D., Kyrie end Nets’ two-game skid
Tandem lifts Brooklyn over Atlanta in Barclays shootout
Virtually every NBA team has a go-to guy down the stretch.
The Nets are that rare team that boasts a pair.
And Brooklyn’s dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving put their clutch skills on display in the fourth quarter of Wednesday night’s 145-141 victory over the Atlanta Hawks at the still-fanless Barclays Center.
Engaged in a back-and-forth shootout with the previously undefeated Hawks (3-1) through three quarters, Durant and Irving took over when it mattered most, something Brooklyn fans have been waiting to see since general manager Sean Marks inked the spectacular tandem in the summer of 2019.
Durant finished with 33 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists and Irving had 25 points and six helpers for Brooklyn (3-2), which ended a two-game skid and won for the first time since finding out that reserve guard Spencer
Dinwiddie will likely miss the rest of the year with an injured right knee.
But it was the final 12 minutes when both Durant and Irving made sure the Nets would not suffer their first three-game losing streak of the young season.
The pair combined for 30 points in the fourth quarter, including 20 of the last 22 scored by Brooklyn, which was slated to host Atlanta again Friday night on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.
“Their names speak for themselves,” said Nets center Jarrett Allen of Durant and Irving.
“When it gets down to crunch time, we know where the ball needs to go,” he added. “The ball needs to be in their hands, and they proved why that needs to happen. We kept trying to go to them. We knew they were going to make the right play, they were going to pass it to the right spot, and we put our trust in them.”
While Allen and the other Nets put their trust in Durant and Irving, the pair returned the favor by praising Brooklyn’s collective offensive effort on a night where every single point counted.
Joe Harris scored 23 points, Allen added 15 points and 13 boards off the bench, Landry Shamet put up 14 points, Taurean Prnce had 12 and Caris LeVert finished with 10 points and eight assists.
“Joe kept us going on offensive side of the ball, (Prince) hit some big shots in that first half, Jeff (Green) and Landry came in and picked us up,” said Durant.
“And that’s what we’re going to need all season,” he emphasized. “Our shot is not going to be falling all year. I think we got the shots that we wanted, it just didn’t go in. Fourth quarter we was able to knock a few in.”
Irving struggled mightily before the stretch run, going just 3-of-16 from the floor while misfiring on seven 3-point attempts over the first three quarters.
But Durant’s sidekick and the first Net ever to score at least 50 points in two games in a single season poured in 17 in the fourth quarter and drilled 7-of-11 shots, including 3-of-4 from long range.
“I think in the case of Ky, you know, he just was having an off night, up until the fourth he finally got his rhythm,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “And I think that gave him juice.”
It also gave Nash and his players a reprieve after they were scalded by the Atlanta offense, which scored at least 36 points in three of the four quarters, including 41 in the opening 12 minutes.
“We definitely got tested tonight,” admitted Nash, who said he needed a beer after watching both squads score seemingly at will throughout the evening.
“We came into the game No. 1 defensively and I think that went out the window. So they are a tough team. Offensively, they have shooters playing with tons of confidence.”
But so do the Nets. And plenty of them.
“That’s what a team is all about, you know?” Durant noted after his best game with Brooklyn thus far.
“When you’re not making shots early on, you need your guys to come on and pick you up. Defenses are gonna be focused on Ky and myself, so having guys like Taurean and Landry who can knock down shots for us. We had — two, three, four, five, six, seven guys in double figures, and that’s only good for the team. But we can’t give up 140 points.”
They certainly can’t if they hope to seriously compete for their first Eastern Conference title since 2003, their initial NBA crown and Brooklyn’s first major pro sports championship since 1955.
“When you’re really stretched and challenged like that you know, especially to a new young kind of situation like this. it can cause doubt,” Nash said.
“And so we got to make sure that we go in and solidify our process that wasn’t tested like this thus far this year.”
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