Nets 122, Nuggets 116: Kevin Durant Scores 34 in Brooklyn Win
Durant's double-double includes 13 assists as Nets come back from 18 points down
With a big assist from Bruce Brown down the stretch, Kevin Durant carried the Brooklyn Nets back from an 18-point second half deficit and all the way home to a 122-116 win over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night at Barclays Center.
It was a win that looked unlikely at halftime, but felt very necessary when it was done, coming on the heels of two straight losses. Back on Friday night in Memphis, the Nets came back from 22 down and couldn’t close it out against the Grizzlies. This time, they made the clutch shots down the stretch against the Nuggets.
“It was a great win. We needed it, I think, for our soul,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “A lot’s been thrown at us. A lot of new things. New group, new coaches. I keep going over it. All the stuff we’re facing this year. Weren’t happy with the last performance but we came out tonight and weren’t great in the first half. We weren’t physical enough. We lacked communication. We asked them to compete in the second half, to up their level physically, demand and compete and win some little battles. That’s what they did, and they got a victory and they deserved it for sticking with it and sticking together.”
In doing so, the Nets scored 68 points while shooting 69.2 percent overall and 64.7 percent from 3-point range in the second half. At the heart of it was Durant, who scored 20 of his 34 points in the second half, including a dagger 3-pointer among six game-sealing points in the final minute. He came up a rebound short of a triple-double with 13 assists and nine boards while shooting 12-for-18 and 4-for-7 from 3-point range.
“He was unbelievable,” said Nash. “Made the big shot at the end, had 13 assists. He led us I think his attitude was great. There were moments from the first half where I could tell he was frustrated and he held on to it and it rubs off so positively on his teammates. They look up to him and they know how gifted he is and when he sticks with him and has that leadership qualities that he had tonight, the guys end up I think feeding off him and performing.”
While there’s nothing surprising about a big scoring night from Durant, who moved up to 28th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list during the game, passing Elgin Baylor, Dwyane Wade, and Adrian Dantley, it was Brown who made a string of clutch shots down the stretch as the Nets and Nuggets traded baskets.
Brown tied the game twice, at 111 on a drive, and then at 113, scoring off a cut and a feed from Durant. Those were two of the four ties in the final six minutes.
Then he ended up with the ball in the left corner, the game tied at 113, and went to the rim before pulling up for a little baseline push shot. It gave him six straight Brooklyn points, and gave the Nets the lead for good.
“I seen him closing out hard, so I pump faked,” said Brown. “I was looking for Joe in the opposite corner, but I think Monte (Morris) stayed home, and that was the only side available so I took it. That’s my go-to, I work on that every day with (assistant coach Ryan Forehan-Kelly) so I knew I was capable of making it.”
Brown moved into the starting lineup and finished with 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting with six rebounds and three assists.
“Bruce Brown was incredible tonight,” said Durant. “Geez. Floaters looked timely, playing in the pick-and-roll, picking up full court. I'm just so proud of that dude. He's a true pro. Man hasn't played at all, comes in the starting lineup and makes an impact. Guys like Taurean (Prince), Caris (LeVert), the whole bench came in and gave us some great minutes. We're going to need that going forward.”
Caris LeVert scored 20 points with six assists and five rebounds, and Joe Harris shot 6-of-9 overall and 3-for-5 from 3-point range in scoring 15 points. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot also made 3-of-5 from deep on the way to 10 points. Brooklyn shot 60.8 percent overall for the game and 50 percent from 3-point range. The Nets had 31 assists and 58 points in the paint.
Even as the Nets trailed 70-54 at halftime, the offense was fine early; they shot 52.5 percent over the first 24 minutes. However, they allowed the Nuggets to shoot 56.8 and 58.8 from 3-point range in going up by eight at the end of the first quarter and stretching it to 46-32 early in the second after an 11-2 run. Durant and LeVert led a run to cut the lead to eight, but with Brooklyn down 10, Denver got 3-pointers from Paul Millsap and Jamal Murray to close the half and take a 16-point lead into the break.
Everything changed after halftime. Brooklyn sprinted into the lead by making 12 of its first 13 shots in the third quarter. For a stretch, the Nuggets kept up, and still led 83-71 with 7:28 to go in the quarter. But Harris connected for three 3-pointers in just over two minutes, with the third putting the Nets up 84-83 with five minutes to go in the quarter.
The Nets extended that into a 19-0 run and a 90-83 lead before Denver scored the final seven points of the quarter to tie the game at 90 going into the fourth. Brooklyn shot 68.2 percent (15-for-22) in its 36-point quarter, including 6-of-9 from 3-point range. Durant had 14 points and four assists in the third quarter, making all six of his shots.
“We didn’t give up,” said LeVert. “I think our resilience was top of the line tonight. We could have really said, ‘This isn’t our night again. They’re shooting the lights out.’ But I think we came out in the second half, and we were determined to play our best basketball. I think we got some favorable rebounds, the ball bounced our way a couple times, we knocked down some shots and we got back in the game.”
Three-pointers in the early minutes of the fourth quarter from Jeff Green, Prince and Landry Shamet had the Nets up 102-96, but two Will Barton 3-pointers for Denver made it a 104-102 Brooklyn lead with 6:47 remaining. Luwawu-Cabarrot and Barton then exchanged 3-pointers before the Nuggets scored to tie the game at 107 with 5:21 to go. The Nets and Nuggets traded baskets for the next three minutes, before Brown put Brooklyn up for good and Durant closed out Denver.
“Beautiful to win it, to come back, to lock up defensively, to start making shots and the ball moving and playing the way we’re capable of playing,” said Nash. “You always, especially a new group like this, you’re looking to build that connectivity and resolve and that ability to fight through adversity. You can’t cheat that process. So these opportunities for us to say we’ve been there and survived and we’ve been there and it hurt and we built through it and here we are tonight coming out the other side, that’s going to happen throughout the year, especially in this crazy season, but as long as each night we take something new from it, build or resolve but also build that collective identity, that’s what it’s going to take to be in these moments and be comfortable under pressure and thrive under pressure.”