Nets fend off Rockets in win as Brooklyn moves back into 8th in East

Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving (11) dribbles the ball against Houston Rockets shooting guard Kevin Porter Jr. (3) during the second half of the game at Barclays Center.
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

It may have been a bit closer than it should have been for a little, but the Nets pulled away in the fourth to capture an important 118-105 win over the basement-dwelling Houston Rockets.

The Nets used a 34 point second quarter to help build a lead after finding themselves in a close contest with the Rockets through the first quarter. And then used a 10-3 run in the fourth to give themselves some more separation after Houston had cut Brooklyn’s lead to just six with 8:50 left in the game.

The win came at a critical time with the Cleveland Cavalier, Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Hornets all losing on Tuesday. That puts the Nets back into the eighth seed and means that if the season ended today they would only need to win one single-elimination game in the play-in round to qualify for the first round of the playoffs.

Tuesday’s win was by no means a pretty effort from the Nets, who turned over the ball 17 times for 25 points and were outrebounded on the offensive end 18-12. And Brooklyn was never able to build a larger lead than nine in the first 12 minutes over the Rockets.

“It wasn’t a great performance,” Nash said. “I don’t think anyone in the locker room feels like it was a great performance. I think we gave up too many offensive rebounds, too many loose balls and it is a trickier team than the record. They got some young athletic guys that are playing really free, making shots, drive the ball to the basket. … We found a way, we got it done. We weathered some tricky patches, probably should have kept the lead at 20 in the second half.”

Kyrie Irving was the difference-maker against Houston and recorded 42 points for the Nets in 40 minutes of work. For all the talk of a shooting slump, Irving shot 13-of-24 from the floor and 8-of-16 from the three-point range.

It marked the fourth time this season that Irving had recorded 40 or more points. He is only one game away from tying his career-high five games in a single season of 40-plus points, which he set last season.

“Kai was huge for us tonight,” said Bruce Brown, who finished the night with 15 points and three made baskets from three-point range. “If we didn’t have Kai tonight I don’t think we would have won this game. He did everything for us and brought energy. I mean he had 42 points and was plus-21 out there, so everything he did for us was huge.”

Tuesday was the front end of a back-to-back with the Nets set to face the New York Knicks on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. It will mark the first time since Kevin Durant and Irving joined forces that the two will face the Knicks on broadway.

The atmosphere is likely to be electric even with the Knicks’ season ending earlier than they had hoped. Brown joked that the Knicks probably didn’t want to say too much so that they didn’t end up with two players scoring 50 on them.

Irving didn’t want to get caught up too much in that.

“You know how that series goes between us and the Knicks and its been that way since I been a fan of the Nets since I was a kid,” Irving said. “It’s going to be action-packed. … It’ll be an exciting environment where you know what to expect. It’s the mecca, so what better way to close out the final few games than playing in one of the most historic arenas in the world.

“That aside we just have to bring and looking forward to it.”