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Nets vs. Grizzlies: Clutch Kyrie Irving and Brooklyn Head to Memphis

Three times in the final three minutes of regulation in Brooklyn’s home opener on Wednesday, including a 3-pointer with 1:16 remaining, Kyrie Irving scored go-ahead points for the Nets, only to see the Minnesota Timberwolves answer, before the Nets dropped a one-point overtime final.

On Friday night, Irving was clutch again, and this one held up, lifting the Nets to a 113-109 win over the Knicks.

For Irving, who was fourth in the NBA in scoring in clutch situations last season, it was just the latest big shot. With the Nets down by three and just under a minute left, he pulled up for a 20-footer that made it a 109-108 game. After the Nets got a stop at the other end, Jarrett Allen gathered the rebound and Irving headed upcourt with 36 seconds to go.

Nets coach Kenny Atkinson opted to let Irving operate rather than taking a timeout.

“This is learning who he is,” said Atkinson. “He’s coming down the right side and I’m thinking in my brain do I call a time out or not. Wait a second, I call timeout they could sub, they could double team him and you just get it in the flow and let him make a play. I think that’s where a coach has to step back and let your best player make plays.”

Irving threw a jab stab at New York’s RJ Barrett, then launched a step-back three that was clean for the lead with 22.4 seconds to go.

In a one-point game, was he looking for the triple?

“That's what I took,” said Irving. “Down the stretch when you get into possessions like that it’s a one- or two-point game a 3-pointer really gives you a little bit more breathing room. Especially if you can go up two after they make some really big plays and the crowd is into it. You hit one and you're down four, you just try and get to the right spot. I got to my spot and I made it.”

MOVING THE PIECES AROUND

After the Brooklyn bench combined for 21 points in Wednesday’s season-opener — 14 from Spencer Dinwidde — Kenny Atkinson didn’t waste any time shifting Brooklyn’s rotations and lineup combinations.

“I think it’s key in this league to get ahead of things,” said Atkinson before Friday night’s game. “So if we see a certain trend or things not going the right way as you all know you have to be really careful to start tweaking things before you have the famous sample size that everybody talks about but you also have to go with your intuition as a coach. So we’ll look at some things, maybe even tonight.”

The first move was going to the bench quicker, with Garrett Temple subbing in for Caris LeVert five minutes into the game. In the opener, Brooklyn’s first substitution came with 3:52 to go in the quarter, and all five starters were out of the game within the next minute.

LeVert returned with 2:13 to go in the quarter against the Knicks on Friday, giving Brooklyn a backcourt combination of LeVert and Dinwiddie that Atkinson was specifically targeting.

“We looked at the numbers and saw those two played pretty well together,” said Atkinson. “That was a little bit the thought process. Take Caris out earlier and then bring him in at the end of the first. They’re a good combo together.”

Nets reserves ended up scoring 47 points, again led by Dinwiddie with 20, while Temple, DeAndre Jordan, David Nwaba and Rodions Kurucs combined to shoot 10-for-16, including 5-for-6 from 3-point range.

“Subtle tweaks,” said Atkinson. “I thought Rodi snapped out of it, I think he played well. Nwaba was good again, solid. I thought DeAndre was really good. Really good job by the bench.”

LOOKING SHARP SHOOTING FROM DEEP

Through two games, the Nets have made 31 of their 71 3-point attempts, a 43.7 percentage. Joe Harris, last season’s NBA leader in 3-point shooting percentage, has made seven of his first 11, a 63.6 rate. Kyrie Irving is 9-for-22 (40.9 percent).

“I think we’ve done a good job of just being able to get out in transition,” said Harris. “When the defense isn’t set, we’re able to move the ball around. We’ve done a good job just going good shots to great shots, kicking it to the open guy, and then obviously a lot of them come when all of the attention is on Ky so he’s able to get downhill, facilitate, whether it’s him, Caris or Spencer and they’re doing a really good job kicking it out over the top, especially against teams that are pulling it in heavy like the Knicks.”

ABOUT THE GRIZZLIES

The Grizzlies have pivoted quickly into a promising rebuilding mode. Over the last year they’ve added 2018’s No. 4 draft pick Jaren Jackson and 2019 No. 2 pick Ja Morant while core veterans Mike Conley and Marc Gasol have moved on.

Jackson started 56 of his 58 games as a rookie, averaging 13.8 points and 4.7 rebounds and making the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team.

In its first season under new coach Taylor Jenkins, Memphis has dropped its first two games, 120-101 to Miami and 110-102 to Chicago.