Kyrie wins it at the buzzer while KD lags in the hot hand

TORONTO — Kyrie Irving nailed the first buzzer-beating game win of his NBA career in a thrilling 119-116 win over the Toronto Raptors on Friday night.

And Irving beat Raptors goalkeeper Fred VanVleet as the final seconds ticked off, stepped beyond the three-point line and hit the clincher to give the Nets their fifth consecutive win and ninth in their last 10 games.

The play was originally set up for Nets forward Kevin Durant, but Durant told Nets coach Jack Vaughn to switch it to Irving as the team was running out of time.

“He was already cooking, so I didn’t want to get in his way,” Durant said after the game. “We kept finding him late in the game. He made some big shots, and I was like, ‘Jack, I think Ky should take this.'” “

Durant said he felt confident Irving could get a good shot “especially” because he was guarded by VanVleet.

“I’m not saying he’s a bad defender, but they’re the same size,” Durant said. He didn’t have a 6-9 [Scottie] Barnes or a 6-5 guy has size, so I felt like he could get whatever he wanted in there, and I also felt like they weren’t going to run around and double it up either at the top of the corkscrew because he can obviously just beat that. So they let him play one-on-one and it was a special, special shot.”

Irving’s shot silenced the Toronto crowd and sparked a wild celebration on the floor for a Brooklyn group that looks like it’s hitting its stride after a rocky month and a half of the season. Irving threw a pair of finger guns and cornered after nailing the winner, as his teammates excitedly jumped around him in a circle.

For all of Irving’s career big shots, including the memorable 3-pointer that helped seal Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Irving noted that this was the first time he had ever hit a shot against the clock. Expired.

“It just comes with the confidence that we’re building here,” Irving said. “Jack had a play call we were on to and K and I had some dialogue and decided to run the play for me. Good game vs. Fred. We outplayed him that time. Who would. I thought I was going to come to Toronto and get my first win in My career? So I pray there will be more to come, but I’m glad we got this win.”

Irving, whose team finished with 32 points, made several assists, including a great pass to Yuuta Watanabe for a three-pointer with 15 seconds left, giving the Nets a tentative 116-114 lead.

Irving said his composure late in games is a product of his desire to be the best player he can be.

“I’m not really comfortable,” Irving said. “I just want to be great in these situations. And I’ve failed more than I’ve succeeded. So you can say anything you want about me not on beats in the past, but the one time you step up and make it, those are the ones you want to remember. … praise The timer is great, but we’re still trying to pull ourselves together for what we’ll see in the future.”

Irving’s teammates and coaches said they could see — and nurture — Irving’s ability to rise to the occasion late in the games.

“He definitely has the inner peace and poise that you have to have in this situation, not to panic,” said Vaughn. “And he had an innate ability to get where he was. He wanted to get up, to create space, with poise, to be a man of his size, to be able to do it, against bigger men, smaller men, and beauties instinctive.”

Durant noted that the Nets’ recent hot play has helped the group develop the kind of identity it has been looking for since the start of the season. He described that identity as “versatile on the defensive side” and having a “we’ll hang our hat” defensive presence.

Irving provided another reminder Friday night of how talented he is on the offensive end and how capable he is with the ball that can lift those around him.

Watanabe said, “I felt like as soon as he took the shot, I knew it was going in.”

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