Nets overcome career night from Lillard to begin road trip

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Final: 11/08/2019

W 119 115

Going into the game Friday night, the Brooklyn Nets had yet to win a road game this season. Conversely, the Portland Trail Blazers had yet to win a game at home.

In what was the first of five straight road games for the Nets, one record had to break — and even on a 60-point night by Damian Lillard, Brooklyn escaped with the win.

The two ace gunslingers in Kyrie Irving and Lillard started dueling from the tip, and did not quit. The two both led their teams in scoring in the first half.

While Lillard had more individual success, the Nets worked better to secure an early lead. The Robins to their Batmans, Caris LeVert and CJ McCollum, both struggled to find their shot, shooting 1-for-7 and 1-for-10 in the first half, respectively.

The difference-maker was Nicolas Claxton, who made his debut for Brooklyn with DeAndre Jordan sidelined by a left ankle sprain.

The rookie looked ferocious when corralling rebounds and did not hesitate to challenge defenders once he got the ball in his spots. It is an extremely limited sample size, but he still impressed while helping propel the Nets to a five-point halftime lead.

The start of the third quarter was when Brooklyn began to stall. Irving was not completely taking over and no other player had reached double-digits — other than Spencer Dinwiddie, that is.

While he has struggled to start this season, Dinwiddie found his groove and began to play like the Sixth Man of the Year candidate that he was last season.

His play kept the Nets in the game even as Lillard dropped 60 (!) points, tied for the most allowed in Nets franchise history. Some timely shots from Irving combined with a strong defensive effort allowed Brooklyn to pull ahead in the final minutes.

This was a big win not only to bring the team back to .500 (4-4), but also because the Nets showed improvement in areas of concern. The team turned the ball over just nine times during the contest, compared to the 19.9 it had been averaging heading into the game.

The defensive effort was also much better. Even though Lillard had a huge night, the rest of the Trail Blazers were effectively neutralized.

The result — Nets start the road trip with a victory. Next stop: Pheonix.

Nicolas Claxton

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The stats: 8 PTS, 3-5 FG, 6 REB, 1 AST, 0 TO

It was just one night, but Sean Marks may have struck gold once again in Nicolas Claxton.

After getting positive reviews during the preseason, some questioned why Claxton was not in the rotation early this season — especially after both Jarrett Allen and DeAndre Jordan struggled. Good things come to those who wait, and his performance Friday night was one of the most inspiring parts of this season so far.

Spencer Dinwiddie

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The stats: 34 PTS, 11-18 FG, 6-10 3PT, 5 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 1 TO

Welcome back, Spencer Dinwiddie. You were dearly missed.

Dinwiddie has received criticism in his rough start to the season, as he is critical to the team’s success. If Dinwiddie can continue to play in his groove and accompany Irving, then the bench will roll.

If the bench begins to roll, then this team can take the next step. 

Jarrett Allen

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The stats: 12 PTS, 4-8 FG, 9 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 5 BLK, 0 TO

Jarrett Allen has been improving every game this season, which is a welcomed sight.

Perhaps the added competition from the young big in Claxton will light the fire under The Fro. If he can grow into the defensive anchor that this squad so desperately needs, then Brooklyn’s ceiling is high.

The only real knock on his performance Friday night is his free-throw shooting. 4-for-8 is not awful — and he was not alone in missing a few — but improvement in that area will make his interior offense that much more potent.

Kyrie Irving

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The stats: 33 PTS, 12-27 FG, 4-8 3PT, 3 REB, 6 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 1 TO

Kyrie Irving was the difference between a clutch win and a heartbreaking loss tonight.

Portland kept this game tight the whole way through, and with a minute left, the score was only separated by three points in a flash. That’s nothing for a supernova star like Lillard.

But Irving once again came up clutch for his team. He took the isolation against youngster Anfernee Simons, then drove on him before hitting a contested floater to put Brooklyn up and ice the game.

Brooklyn may have won without the basket, but having that breathing room provided by Irving is something to be taken for granted by Nets fans. 

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