Kyrie and company roll past Raptors
Mercurial guard scores 29 to pace balanced Nets effort
Kyrie Irving had his best game since returning from his infamous suspension, and the rest of the Brooklyn Nets followed suit in Toronto Wednesday.
Irving led five Nets starters in double figures with 29 points as Brooklyn celebrated Thanksgiving Eve with a 112-98 triumph over the Raptors in front of a sellout crowd of 19,800 at Scotiabank Arena.
“Feels incredible. It was a total team effort,” gushed Irving, who missed eight games earlier this month while serving a team-imposed punishment for posting a link to an antisemitic documentary.
Playing his third game since returning, Irving went 11-of-16 from the floor, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range.
It was his best game since he put up a season-high 39 points in an overtime win over Dallas at Barclays Center on Oct. 27.
“Trust and just having fun,” Irving said of his big game after amassing 37 points in his first two contests back with the team.
“When we’re playing with a defensive mentality, anything’s possible.”
Royce O’Neale scored 15 points on a career-best five 3-pointers, Nic Claxton had 14 points and 12 rebounds and Ben Simmons added 14 points for Brooklyn (9-10), which rebounded nicely from Tuesday’s 115-106 loss in Philadelphia.
“It really was a standard that we have to have for each other,” Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn said of his message to the team following the defeat to the 76ers.
“That concentration level. Just holding each other to a higher standard.”
Irving took it to another level himself in the third quarter vs. the Raptors.
He hit his first seven shots during the period to help Brooklyn open a 91-76 lead entering the final 12 minutes.
“Doesn’t take too much (to get Irving going),” Vaughn marveled. “He’s talented, gifted and can score in any quarter.”
Gary Trent Jr. had 19 points and O.G. Anunoby added 15 for Toronto (9-9), which lost for just the second time in eight home games this year.
Still, the Raptors held a one-point edge at the half before Irving began filling it up, leading the Nets to a 39-25 advantage in the third quarter.
But the mercurial point guard gave all the thanks to his teammates for Wednesday’s win, citing Brooklyn’s 32 assists and season-high 17 3-pointers for its third win in four games.
“That’s team basketball right there and that was a prime example tonight,” he noted.
Though he won’t be eating turkey Thursday, Irving did have a warm message for Brooklynites and Nets fans who will be digging in at the table during the national holiday.
“I don’t particularly celebrate Thanksgiving, but anybody that’s getting together with their family, blessings to all you guys. … Enjoy the food for me,” he said.
NOTHING BUT NET: Kevin Durant was limited to 12 points in 33 minutes vs. Toronto, but he did pass former Net Kevin Garnett for 18th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 26,074 points. … Seth Curry, who is nursing an injured left ankle, missed his second straight game. … The Nets will complete their three-game road trip Friday night in Indiana before opening a season-high seven-game homestand in Brooklyn on Sunday afternoon vs. Portland.
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