Sexton, Cavs spoil Big Three debut
Durant, Harden and Irving not enough in double OT loss
The much-anticipated season debut of Brooklyn’s Big Three in Cleveland Wednesday night featured a combined 96 points from Kevin Durant, James Harden and the back-in-action Kyrie Irving.
It also resulted in a 147-135 double-overtime loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in front of 1,944 fans, approximatey 10 percent of capacity due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
“Look, this is the first night (Durant, Harden and Irving have played together),” Nets rookie head coach Steve Nash explained. “We seemed a little lost at times. We were a little flat and disjointed at times.
“But I stay positive,” he added. “These guys, first night out together, just getting a feel for each other, and this is gonna be a process. It’s gonna take the entire year.”
It took nearly three and a half quarters for the Big Three to get in sync in the opener of the two-game set, which concludes Friday night.
Brooklyn fell behind by as many as 14 points in the fourth quarter to the unheralded Cavaliers (7-7), who were led by Collin Sexton’s 42 points in the first meeting between the squads since Cleveland took part in the blockbuster four-team deal that brought Harden to the Nets last week.
Harden finished with 21 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds for his second triple-double in three games since joining Brooklyn (9-7).
Durant poured in a team-high 38 points to go with 12 rebounds and eight assists.
Irving, back from his well-chronicled seven-game absence from the team, had 37 points on 15-of-28 shooting.
But none of it was enough as Sexton hit a game-tying 3-pointer in the first extra session and went on to score 15 points in the second OT.
“Two overtimes for my first game back?” pondered Irving, who logged 48 minutes in the marathon after sitting out since Jan. 5.
“You gotta love NBA ball, though. I was smiling when Collin Sexton was making those shots.”
The rest of the Nets weren’t as Brooklyn had its season-high four-game winning streak snapped and will now have to figure out how much of its superstar triumvirate will be ready to go Friday after Durant and Harden logged more than 50 minutes apiece.
“They had a guy get hot at the right time,” lamented Nash. “He sent them to the second overtime and he was hot in that overtime. We were a little flat, a little disjointed to start the game. Got down, found our way back in it, pushed it to overtime.
“Up three at the end of the first overtime and gave up a three. Looks like the legs fell all off a little bit, but also he got hot at the right time, so hats off to him.”
Irving, who was the subject of speculation for the past two weeks as many wondered where he was and why he wasn’t participating in team activities, didn’t seem perturbed by the defeat, though he admittedly would have traded his big numbers and those of his fellow superstars for a win.
“We will have good nights, we will have great nights, but it is how we galvanize this group together and how we sacrifice and compromise for the greater good,” he said.
“Obviously one game is out the way, but I am excited for what’s to come,” he added.
Jeff Green scored 16 points and DeAndre Jordan added 13 for Brooklyn, which fell to 2-3 on the road this season.
Former Net Jarrett Allen had 12 points and 11 rebounds against his ex-teammates after going to Cleveland in the deal for Harden.
But it was Sexton who played the role of spoiler on a night the Nets finally got to showcase the trio their banking on to lead this franchise to its first-ever NBA title and Brooklyn’s first major pro sports championship since 1955.
“I definitely accepted the challenge,” Sexton told the Associated Press. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy — because it’s Kyrie.”
Nothing But Net: Nash admitted that Irving’s absence surprised the team during his pre-game presser. But he reiterated that the coaching staff and Irving’s teammates have embraced him since his return and will be supporting him going forward. “It’s more important than basketball,” Nash said. “We can be a layer of protection for him.” … Following their two-game set in Cleveland, the Nets will host defending Eastern Conference champion Miami for two games at Downtown’s Barclays Center on Saturday and Monday.
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