The Nets relied on their two superstars to carry them to a second straight win in a contest that was much closer than it should have been on Monday night.
Brooklyn downed the Orlando Magic 109-102 at Barclays Center after they took a one-point lead out of halftime and extended it to double digits in the third. Superstar Kevin Durant drove the bus for the Nets putting up 45 points, with 19 of those coming in the third quarter, and providing help on the other end of the floor with a strong effort defensively.
Even as the Nets turned a 52-51 lead going into halftime to an 87-86 lead by the end of the third, the Magic remained in the game through the final minutes of the fourth. Buckets from Kevon Harris, Bol Bol and Admiral Schofield pulled Orlando within four with 9:10 left to play.
Back-t0-back baskets from Durant helped give Brooklyn a little breathing room and Kyrie Irving hit a jumper with 5:20 left to play in the game to make it 98-90 in favor of the home side. A pull-up jumper by Durant put the Nets up 102-96 with 3:16 left on the clock and moments later another pull-up shot gave the Nets an eight-point lead.
The dagger came when Nic Claxton slam-dunked the ball with 25.4 left in the game to give the Nets a 109-102 least.
The Nets’ win moved them to 11-11 on the season and put them at .500 for the first time since Oct. 21 after the first two games of the season. Durant admitted that getting back to .500 had been a driving factor heading into Monday’s game.
“Yeah, that’s really where it was. We got so close,” Durant said. “Definitely was motivated to come out here on our home floor to get back to .500. I think it was every game we play at home is so important because we want to keep our fans engaged and keep them supporting us. To just having a good product out on the court, which is playing hard, playing together. We want guys to feel comfortable in our home arena when they take shots. So there’s a lot on the line when we play at home and we want to take advantage of those opportunities.:
Brooklyn won its second straight game as they played the back half of a back-to-back.
Coming into the game, the Nets had been 2-3 in the second game of a back-to-back and they had gone 3-11 in the second game of back-to-backs last season. It was the sixth set of back-to-backs this season for the Nets, who will have to play 14 total during the 2022-23 campaign.
Durant’s massive effort similarly mimicked one that Irving had the last time the Magic and Nets met. Irving put up 60 points against Orlando last March while Durant led the offense this time around.
Durant shot 19-of-24 and 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, while grabbing seven rebounds, blocking two shots and picking up two steals. Irving finished the night with 20 points on 9-of-17 shooting.
“It’s hard not to just stare and just watch somebody that special and talented,” Irving said of Durant’s effort. “Man, we know what he’s capable of. He shows his talent like this tonight. It’s definitely an honor to be a part of and grateful to be his teammate.”
Claxton had 17 points in the win along with a game-best 13 rebounds, while Joe Harris contributed 17 points of his own — a new season best for the sharpshooter — off the bench.
The Nets did struggle for portions of the game, committing 18 turnovers for 24 points and shooting just 32.1% from three-point range. Brooklyn also lost its point guard Ben Simmons to soreness in his left knee.
Irving hit a pull-up three to tie the game at five, but the Magic went right back down the court for a quick bucket to give themselves back the lead. Paolo Banchero was fouled moments later and hit both free throws to make it a 9-5 game and Franz Wagner completed a 7-0 run with a three that forced Brooklyn to call a timeout.
After the Magic extended their lead to 16-9, the Nets responded with an 11-0 run led by Irving and Durant to take the lead with just over five minutes to play in the first quarter.
However, the Nets inconsistency reared its ugly head and a three-minute span swung the game back in the Magic’s favor. Boi Boi put up seven points in the final few minutes of the first and Orlando opened up a 10-point lead.
The Nets ended the period down 28-23 and Nic Claxton was the only Brooklyn player not named Durant or Irving to score a basket in the opening 12 minutes.
The second quarter started with the Nets going on a 6-0 run to take a one-point lead. Royce O’Neale and Joe Harris each knocked down shots on the run and it culminated with Irving completing a driving layup to give the Nets a 29-28 lead.