The Nets talked about adversity plenty on Monday morning and later that night they proved they could weather a storm when they had to after the Pacers had tied the game in the fourth quarter. Instead the Nets went on a 9-2 run to retake their lead and eventually win 116-109.
The much-needed win helped snap a four-game skid for the Nets that had put the team back on its heels early in the season. Monday’s effort was a complete 180 from the previous games, where the Nets had struggled defensively and allowed opposing players to take over periods of games.
“It was very important for us to get a response,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “The win was nice. I care much more about our process and I thought the process was great. The spirit was great, we were connected, we played hard. We were able to do the extra things, the little things, and especially at the end.”
Chris Duarte certainly did his best to do that, but he was held to just two points in the final 12 minutes. His only basket tied the game at 100 with 6:54 left on the clock.
However, the Nets punched right back with Nic Claxton giving Brooklyn back the lead with a slam dunk and then Yuta Watanabe getting a defensive rebound and allowing his side to go the other way. It culminated with a pull-up shot by Kevin Durant to put the Nets up by four.
Durant put up five more points to get it to a 109-102 lead, but Buddy Hield hit a three with 3:22 left to get the Pacers back within three points. Royce O’Neale answered with a three of his own and then later in the fourth after the Pacers made it a 112-109 Nets lead, Kyrie Irving ended their hopes with a dagger of a floating layup with less than a minute in the game.
“Everybody in the organization, we just been pissed off and we want to be better. I know that everybody being on the same page today, that’s what matters,” Claxton said after the win. “You can talk, talk, talk, but you gotta go out there and get the job done. We did that tonight. We just gotta be consistent. We can’t just be a one-night thing. We gotta bring every single night no matter who we’re playing against.”
The Nets finished the night shooting 53.8% and held the edge in defensive rebounds, 33-28.
It was another big night for Durant, who surpassed Vince Carter for 19th on the NBA’s all-time scoring with 25,729 career points after putting up his 11th point of the night in the first quarter. Durant finished with 35 points on 13-of-22 shooting and added seven assists.
Monday also marked the seventh straight game that Durant had put 25 or more points in a game this season, which set the new franchise record for most consecutive 25-point games for a Net to open a season all-time.
The previous record had been six which was set by Carter, coincidentally, to start the 2006-07 season.
“It means a lot. I love to score the ball, that’s the name of the game,” Durant said of the achievement. “That’s why we play basketball is to put points on the board and shift the game and be mentioned with the greats. To pass somebody I looked up to as kid, my first NBA jersey was Vince Carter’s when he was in Toronto, so it’s a full circle moment for me. Grateful for all my teammates along the way that helped me throughout these years, and my coaches as well.
“Everybody just chipped in and helped make me the player that I am today.”
Irving finished the night with 28 points, along with six rebounds and six assists. Claxton contributed 19 points for Brooklyn, while grabbing nine boards recording four assists and four blocked shots.
The Nets had started off the night as the much more aggressive team, seeming to make up for the mistakes the first time the two teams had met on Saturday. After trading baskets to open the game, the Nets went on a 7-2 run to open up a 12-4 lead by the 8:01 mark.
Brooklyn made it a 10-point lead when Claxton had the putback dunk. Indiana managed to cut the lead to four, but the Nets punched back and got it back to double digits off a pair of free throws from Durant and Markieff Morris added to that with a jump shot in the final minute.
Durant ended the first with a pair of free throws to give Brooklyn a 15-point advantage.
The Nets opened up the second quarter with a 14-5 run that included a pair of three-pointers from Irving and put the Nets up by their largest margin of the night, 24. However, Indiana’s Buddy Hield and Duarte combined for 21 second-quarter points and cut that lead to just seven by the end of the half.
Brooklyn pushed the lead back to double digits out of the halftime break, with Durant, Irvin, Claxton and Royce O’Neale getting buckets in 2:30 of the third to make it a 72-55 game. Durant made it a 19-point game with 5:20 left in the quarter off a running dunk.
But the pesky Pacers stayed with the Nets and Duarte hit timely shots for Indiana. He pulled them within nine with a three-pointer with less than three left in the third and a pull-up three at the buzzer moved the Pacers back within seven.