NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving combined to miss 32 shots and didn’t let it bother them one bit.
Durant had 33 points and 10 rebounds, Irving scored seven of his 19 points in the final 1:12 and the Brooklyn Nets outlasted the short-handed New Orleans Pelicans 108-102 on Friday night.
“Our growth as a team is just seeing some of the leaders on our team, including myself, be poised,” said Irving, whose 3 from 29 feet away with 44 seconds left gave the Nets a 106-100 lead and doomed New Orleans to just its fifth home loss this season. “That’s probably where I feel like we’re making incredible strides in games like this.”
T.J. Warren scored 15 points for Brooklyn and Royce O’Neale added 14, including a 3-pointer with 2:27 left.
“There’s going to come a time when shots don’t fall — like tonight,” said Durant, who shot 9 of 26, but also made all 11 of his free throws. “I liked how we kept grinding regardless.
“You’ve still got to go out there and lock in on the defensive side of the ball,” Durant continued. “Those are the type of games you want to play to learn your team and figure out your team even more, because you’re a totally different team when your shots aren’t going in. So, it was a good test for us”
CJ McCollum scored 28 points and Naji Marshall had a career-high 23 points for the Pelicans in their second game since losing Zion Williamson for what is expected to be about three weeks with a right hamstring strain.
Jose Alvarado added 17 points, and Jonas Valanciunas had 12 points and 10 rebounds for New Orleans, which hasn’t had high-scoring forward Brandon Ingram (left great toe contusion) in the lineup for 20 games.
“Obviously we’re down a few players,” Alvarado said. “We had a chance to win the game and certain things didn’t go our way. … Kyrie hit a big 3 and made it a little bit difficult, but we’ve got to look back and learn.”
The Pelicans led for much of the game but struggled to hit shots in the second half, finishing at 39.8 % shooting (35 of 88).
New Orleans made just two of 12 3s in the second half after making 10 of 17 in the first. Meanwhile, Nets center Nic Claxton protected the paint with five blocks.
Defensively, the Nets were “really aggressive in the second half,” Brooklyn coach Jacque Vaughn, noting his team’s “ability to contest shots at the rim.”
“Nothing was easy,” Vaughn said. “No walk-up transition 3s that we gave up earlier in the game.”
Brooklyn shot 43.5% (37 of 85), including 15 of 33 from deep.
After trailing by as many as 15 in the second quarter and 11 at halftime, the Nets opened the third quarter with a 17-5 run, capped by O’Neale’s second-chance 3, to take a 70-69 lead. The game remained tight from there into the final minutes.
Marshall helped the Pelicans get off to a fast start with 10 first-quarter points, highlighted by three 3-pointers.
Alvarado’s 3 and driving layup sparked an 11-0 run that gave the Pelicans a 43-28 lead in the second quarter, and New Orleans led 64-53 at halftime.
The Nets “came out in the second half, they picked it up, made more shots, got a bit more physical with us and I though it affected our force and our pace,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “We had multiple guys guarding Kyrie, guarding Kevin, trying to get out to their shooters. I thought we did a solid job. We didn’t do enough to win the game, but we can continue to build.”
Nets: Have won four straight in New Orleans. … Have won six straight against Western Conference teams. … Improved to 24-8 since Vaughn took over as coach on Nov. 1, first on an “acting” basis before that word was removed from his title on Nov. 9.
Pelicans: Trey Murphy III scored 11 points. … Marshall has scored 20 or more in three games this season. … With Three Kings Day marking the start of the Carnival season that runs through Mardi Gras day, the Pelicans debuted their “City Edition” uniforms featuring the purple, green and gold colors that have been associated with Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans since the 1870s.