Kyrie Irving’s buzzer hitter lifts the Nets back for a win over the Raptors
TORONTO — Kyrie Irving has racked up a series of big shots, including one of the most memorable championship wins in history. But he’s never hit a batter in the NBA — until Friday, when he beat out both the Hornets and the Raptors.
Irving’s high-bending shot was at its peak when the final horn sounded. And when it cut through, it pulled off a come-from-behind victory, 119-116 over Toronto.
With the net coming off the mat for the fight from 18 down, Irving delivered the putt. He took a few dribbles to the right, rocked Fred Van Fleet with a step back and shook the sellout crowd of 19,800 at Scotiabank Arena with his 27-foot winner.
And he gave the net (18-12) his fifth consecutive victory in the season, which is his highest victory, and the ninth in the last 10 matches. Oh, and it gave Irving a cherished first.
“Just come with the confidence that we’re building here,” Irving said. “Jack [Vaughn] He had another play called We Were Almost Done. me and [Kevin Durant] We had some dialogue, and decided to play the play for me. Good game against Fred and just got the better of him that time.
“Who would have thought I’d come to Toronto, hit the first game winner, buzzer ringer of my NBA career? So pray there’s more to come. But I’m glad we got this one.”
Irving put up 15 of his team-high 32 points in the fourth quarter. Durant finished with a score of 28 and got the call for seclusion, but told Vaughn he’d defer to hot-tempered Irving.
“I felt like I was in the whole fourth round,” Durant said, “he hit big putts, and he hit big putts on the fourth.” “And he’s already cooking so I don’t want to get in his way. So we kept finding him late in the game. He made some big shots.”
Durant knew the Raptors (13-16) would corner him but he wouldn’t run a double-team on Irving for fear of passing him. And he was confident Irving could beat VanVleet, the junior guard with a career-high 39 games.
He was right on both accounts.
“He definitely has the inner peace and poise that you have to have in this situation to not panic,” Vaughn gushed. “…and he has an innate ability to get where he is.”
“Just play for free. That’s just what it is: He’s a free spirit and takes that approach on the court,” Durant said. “Never bother me, never feel rushed. And we trust him. Once he started his movement it was a wide open look. He’s an absolutely fantastic shooter, so I had confidence as soon as he got up for the shot he was going to go in. I’m sure that Everyone in Brooklyn and on the bench felt the same way.”
It was the Nets’ first at-bat since March 21, 2017 (Brook Lopez vs. Detroit), and gave them a 4-0 season sweep over the Raptors.
Nick Claxton added 15 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high six steals. Yuuta Watanabe was 17 off the bench shooting 6-for-7 against his former team.
Trailing 62-44, with 1:17 left in the first period after a Pascal Siakam 3-pointer, the Nets closed out the half with eight unanswered points, which grew to a 14-0 spurt that extended into the halftime period.
It proved to be an extended game starter 35-14. The Nets shot 10-of-13 and Toronto held 5-for-18 – including 0-for-6 from deep.
Durant gave the lead to the net, and Watanabe made it 79-76 with three minutes left in the third period.
He shot 70 percent in fourth place behind Blast Irving. The last period saw two ties and four key changes, with Irving’s third pointer being the last and most dramatic.
He found Irving Watanabe for a three-pointer with 15 seconds left to take a 116-114 lead. Toronto’s Scottie Barnes tied the game (26 points), but Irving then disintegrated him.
“I felt like, once he took the shot, I knew it was going to happen,” Watanabe said. “From the angle, I was watching it. It looked perfect, so I knew it was going to happen.”
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