Nets win in Toronto, 119-116, for the fifth in a row
Nets fans owe a big thank you to Drederick Irving for one of Brooklyn’s most exciting wins of the season. According to Kyrie, his father “told me to get my balance under me every time I shot those threes.” Well, when Kyrie hit a few dribbles to the right and hit Fred VanVleet with a patented glancing blow before turning up the smashing punch to give the Nets their ninth win in ten games… his tally is under him. And it sent Brooklyn fans into ecstasy.
There is no greater joy than watching Irving in action. It’s a step back from his rebounding tenure in Brooklyn. This is not the time to describe the entire Irving experience. But watching him figure out ways to put the ball in the basket is reminiscent of the child-like wonder of when he fell in love with this game in the first place. It’s art, it’s magic, it’s jaw-dropping. Watching Kairi dance with the game on the line? It only amplifies the experience.
“He definitely has the inner peace and poise that you have to have in this situation, not to panic. He has an innate ability to get where he is,” said Jack Vaughn. Just the truth.
But that was the end. Let’s start from the beginning. I wrote in the game preview that I was expecting a slightly slow start for Brooklyn. Nothing against these new and improved nets, but going out with three days off against a Toronto team rapidly approaching the “hit or break” point of his season seemed like a proper recipe for that. “It certainly wouldn’t be surprising if the Nets went down 13-4 or something. Their long layoffs, the raptors’ drive, the crowd’s rallying,” was the verbiage I used.
and this is what actually happened. Only, the Nets didn’t correct course so quickly. Toronto took an 18-point halftime lead, turning Brooklyn’s half-court offense into yellow snow. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving each hit some powerful shots to save the half, at least a little bit, bringing it down to 10 at the buzzer in the second quarter. But it didn’t feel sustainable. The ball was not moving. Toronto was dictating the terms of engagement.
Brooklyn did what good teams do, though. Sure, Malachi Flynn came up with an amazing performance. Fred VanVleet put together his second strong version in a row. Fanfleet is a good player though, it will happen. He was taking tough shots. Through it all, you can see the Jacque Vaughn influence permeating the product on the pitch. All the cliches came true: They turned it up in the second half, weathered the storm, and everyone contributed.
By the end of the third quarter, Brooklyn held their biggest lead of the game, by four points. You knew we were in a competitive fourth quarter against a team that, although underperforming, certainly can’t be taken lightly. And that’s what we got. The Nets led 105-97, and it all seemed to be good, but some rough offense and Scotty Barnes’ bully ball.
In his return to Toronto, Yuta Watanabe had the two biggest offensive plays of the night, sans kiri. He sets up this huge green light basket with a motor and a great dish:
And then, of course, the three start signals made by Kyrie Irving’s awesome engine and plate. What does he say about his rushing onto the scene that we had no doubt this was happening?
Who needs KD offense when you have Yuta and Kyrie? KD came through the D, despite having a huge unofficial block to prevent Scottie Barnes from converting a three-point play. Then Kerry. What a win.
In terms of its X’s and O’s, Brooklyn mirrored the sluggish start, as it was very easy to protect:
Some clips from the first half (I just realized), starting with this ugly takeover. The ball entered stagnant and half the shooting hour passed: pic.twitter.com/8UlqvGtP4d
– Lucas Kaplan (@LucasKaplan_) December 17, 2022
Not that it was always easy, but the process was much better by the second half:
This is a really encouraging possession from Brooklyn. Nothing is easy, quite like the first half, but keep attacking the close and the ball ends up in the hands of the best player and Kerry plays: 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 was pushed up. It’s not that Ben Simmons has to throw it the length of the field with 22 points on the shot clock for the offense to work, just some oomph will do. Anytime Toronto’s been alert enough to not be sure of their encounters, and still scrambled at the point of attack, good things happened:
The spacing is still a bit jagged. As men pass the ball and stand still, there is a huge lack of transmission ability when Seth Curry or Joe Harris aren’t on the field. But the proces The tempo improved dramatically throughout the match.
Defensively this was a similar story, improved efforts etc. But boy, do I have to shout out to Nick Claxton, who deserves his own article after turning out a game that should serve as a staple of the budding All-Defensive Team campaign. Six blocks, endless basket contests, and constant pauses after switching to the perimeter. This is just one example:
A lot of them …
- Kevin Durant has moved within one point of Jon Havilczyk on the all-time leading scorer list…and three points short of Paul Pierce. He is now 18th in KD, with 26,394 KD against Havilchek’s 26,395 and Pierce’s 26,397. He is 102 shy of Tim Duncan’s 15th place.
- Kyrie Irving’s buzzer-winning game is Brooklyn’s first since Brook Lopez on March 21, 2017 against Detroit.
- The Nets earn a 4-0 season sweep of Toronto with tonight’s win. Since the Raptors’ inaugural season (1995-96), this is the second time the Nets have swept the Raptors in a single season (also: 2002-03).
- With the Nets winning in Toronto tonight:
Fifth win in a row.
Their ninth win in their last 10 matches.
Twelfth win in the last 15 matches.
Best three wins in a row in a season.
Record 18-12 on the season (8-7 on the road).
- Nick Claxton (15 points, 10 boards) had a career-high six blocks.
The Nets travel south of the border to Detroit, for a game on Sunday night versus the rebuilding Pistons with a 6:00 PM ET tip-off.
#Nets #win #Toronto #row