Nets fans can breathe a sigh of relief.
For all intents and purposes, the Nets dominated the Knicks for the better part of three quarters. But a late third-quarter run kept Brooklyn from prematurely ending the game.
A 19-point Nets lead turned into a three-point Knicks lead with under two minutes to play.
The high hopes surrounding this Brooklyn team flashed before the eyes of Nets faithful, but the Jersey-born Kyrie Irving turned in another remarkable performance, dazzling the Barclays Center crowd.
With just under a minute to go, Irving drained a mid-range jumper to bring the deficit to a single point. Then, following a defensive stop, Irving had the ball in his hands.
Everyone in the arena knew what he was about to do.
Irving, with 22 seconds left, drilled a three to give Brooklyn a two-point lead.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) October 26, 2019
On the other end, Jarrett Allen forced Julius Randle to turn the ball over. Both teams committed 26 turnovers on the night in what was an ugly battle of New York.
Fortunately for Brooklyn, the team’s struggles at the line this season did not occur when points were most needed. Spencer Dinwiddie made extended Brooklyn’s lead four points after hitting two free throws, icing the victory.
And so, after the Irving magic, the Nets won a game in which the Knicks had no business coming back from in the first place.
While Brooklyn experienced first-half struggles in Wednesday’s loss, that had no carryover effect against the Knicks.
The Nets led by as many as 16 points in the first half. However, the Knicks did not go away, as they trimmed the deficit to just seven points late in the second quarter. But a late offensive burst from Dinwiddie and Irving brought the halftime lead to a respectable 13-point margin, 64-51.
This late, albeit brief, Knicks resurgence may have been a result of a scuffle involving Irving, Bobby Portis and Taurean Prince. Irving, on the ground, caught a loose ball. Portis aggressively grabbed for the rock, even after the whistle was blown. But Prince defended Irving and tried to break Portis away from the ball and Irving. Portis should probably consider wearing different shoes than his Kyries when looking to start a fight with Irving.
Still, Irving led Brooklyn’s first-half offense with 12 points (8-8 FT).
After scoring zero points against the Wolves, Rodions Kurucs also started to look like his former self with nine points in nine minutes. The Nets’ bench — a staple of their 2018-19 playoff run — also awoke from a one-game slumber. The bench scored 27 first-half points, with Spencer Dinwiddie and DeAndre Jordan linking up twice in the early going after struggling to do so Wednesday.
The Nets played stellar defense as well, holding the Knicks under 40 percent shooting from the field in the first half. Keeping Julius Randle in-check is must for any team facing the Knicks this season — and the Nets did just that.
The third quarter played out similarly to the second.
The Nets took a 19-point lead, their largest of the night, but Brooklyn’s abysmal free-throw shooting, coupled with eight additional turnovers, kept the Knicks in the game.
The Knicks, on the other hand, shot over 60 percent from the field in the third, converting on open shots from deep. On the night, the Knicks shot 17-25 (68 percent) from beyond the arc.
Entering the fourth, Brooklyn led by 11 points, but with new life, the Knicks brought the deficit to single digits. On the night, the refs called just about every instance of contact a foul, and by the fourth quarter, the game fell to a stagnant pace — which helped the Knicks stay in the game.
In a blink of the eye, the Nets led by just three points with under five minutes left to play. If Nets fans blinked again, the Knicks now went on to lead by three with under two minutes left.
But Irving has a killer instinct, one that is as innate as they come. He did not let his team fall to 0-2, especially against the crosstown rival.
Down the stretch, foul trouble plagued Irving, Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert, so much so that LeVert wasn’t even on the floor during crunch time. On the night, the Nets committed 26 personal fouls. The Knicks somehow committed five more than Brooklyn.
For much of the game, ball movement and selflessness characterized Brooklyn’s offense. Turnovers stalled seemingly every Nets possession in the fourth, and careless passes and traveling violations defined Brooklyn’s fourth-quarter offense.
Still, Irving did not have to carry the offense as he did two nights ago. Ball movement and passing up good shots for great ones were staples of the 2018-19 Nets, and Irving’s dominance in isolation becomes even more deadly for Brooklyn when the defense is forced to respect all five players on the court.
Friday night, Irving’s isolation game — similar to the shot he made in the 2016 NBA Finals — brought the Nets win No. 1 of the 2019-20 campaign.
Sitting at 1-1 on the season, Brooklyn will travel down to Memphis to face off against the Grizzlies on Sunday evening.
While it was closer than expected, Brooklyn was able to get a game in the win column and Irving continued to show his impact on the game.
Sleep easy, Nets fans. Kyrie Irving is here, and he is playing some of the best basketball of his career.
The stats: 26 PTS, 8-19 FG, 2-8 3PT, 8-8 FT, 2 REB, 5 AST, 3 STL, 4 TO, 31 MIN
Against the Wolves, Kyrie Irving did everything Brooklyn Nets could have hoped for from the six-time All-Star.
In addition to his 50-point performance, Irving had zero (!) turnovers.
While Irving didn’t top his legendary game, he still played like the star player Brooklyn has not had since Deron Williams’ tenure.
Irving didn’t have to put the offense on his back tonight until the final minutes, and it is remarkable to watch a player as talented as Irving on a nightly basis.
Irving, during his post-game interview with YES Network’s Michael Grady, got emotional and gave his jersey to his dad. He is genuinely happy to be a Net, and Nets fans are just as happy to have him on their side.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) October 26, 2019
The stats: 12 PTS, 4-7 FG, 1-4 3PT, 3-4 FT, 2 REB, 4 AST, 2 STL, 6 TO, 24 MIN
Caris LeVert logged 37 minutes in Wednesday’s opener, scoring 20 points (9-19 FG). However, LeVert struggled to make the layups that normally come so easily for him. He also turned the ball over five times — another uncharacteristic stat.
On Friday night, LeVert played a solid first half before going silent for the remainder of the contest.
LeVert finished with five fouls and six turnovers. The fouls kept him off the court in crunch time, and LeVert will need to take better care of the basketball going forward.
The silver lining is that LeVert finished with the second-best +/- on the Nets at plus-6.
The stats: 4 PTS, 2-6 FG, 11 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 2 TO, 25 MIN
Jarrett Allen did not have much of a chance to bounce back from his poor offensive performance on Wednesday night. Allen was a non-factor on that end of the court, aside from his three offensive rebounds.
Defensively, Allen was fantastic. He was responsible for stopping Randle from tying the game during crunch time.
Allen needs to regain his confidence on offense as the season continues.
The stats: 7 PTS, 3-5 FG, 1-4 FT, 11 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 3 TO, 22 MIN
Lob city finally came to Brooklyn tonight.
Dinwiddie found Jordan for two successful alley-oops, and the chemistry between the two looks to be on the rise after many mishaps against the Timberwolves.
Jordan provided an excellent presence on the glass, gobbling up rebounds.
If Jordan continues to give the Nets similar numbers as he did tonight, and limit his turnovers, the Nets will be in good hands.
The stats: 20 PTS, 5-12 FG, 2-7 3PT, 8-10 FT, 2 REB, 5 AST, 1 BLK, 2 TO, 26
Like LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie committed five turnovers in Wednesday night’s loss to the Timberwolves, finding himself on the bench down the stretch.
Friday night, Dinwiddie excelled in his normal role of 25+ minutes, scoring efficiently and finding the open man throughout the game.
Unlike his teammates, Dinwiddie kept his turnovers to just two and made his free throws. It was great to see Dinwiddie continue to form chemistry and connect with Jordan as the Nets notched their first win of the season.