Nets 124, Clippers 120: Kyrie Irving Scores 39 as Brooklyn Beats LA

The Brooklyn Nets came through with the defensive effort and closing touch that was missing two nights earlier, supporting another superlative offensive effort to rack up a signature win, 124-120 over the LA Clippers at Barclays Center on Tuesday night.

The Clippers brought the NBA’s best record into Brooklyn, but the Nets held it all together down the stretch after turning a five-point fourth-quarter deficit into a 10-point lead — then watching the Clippers trim that to one before they made enough free throws to lock things down in the final 14 seconds.

“Finish the games,” said Kyrie Irving. “That’s the big thing. That’s the phrase. Finish the games. We’re up by 10, we’re up by eight, we’re up five with a minute to go. Finish the game.”

Irving was the closer in this one, with 39 points on 15-of-23 shooting, including 6-of-8 from 3-point range. With the Nets down 102-97 midway through the fourth quarter, Irving scored eight straight points inside the 13-0 run that put Brooklyn in front for good after they had spent all of the second half trading leads to that point. His two free throws with 1.9 seconds remaining finally put the Clippers away and sealed the game.

“We just needed to respond,” said Irving. “Every single night it’s gonna be different what’s needed out there on the flow of the game, so just trying to give what’s needed on both ends of the floor. Like I said the other night, I took that personal just not being able to guard anyone, so tonight I gave up a few drives, but I feel like defensively as a team including my effort, we just matched it tonight. And we knew that they were gonna bring it, so it was just an exciting game.”

Kevin Durant had 28 points and nine rebounds, making 11-of-13 shots, while James Harden had his fourth triple-double in nine games as a Net with 23 points, 14 assists, and 11 rebounds, and Joe Harris added 13 points for Brooklyn.

For the third straight game, the Nets shot 57 percent from the field, and against a team that had been putting up offensive numbers equal to theirs, the defense was good enough to make it hold up.

“It’s got to be that way if we’re serious about this,” said head coach Steve Nash. “We have the luxury of offensive talent but we have to defend. That’s a really difficult team to defend. They did a great job. Again, it’s tricky when the teams are constantly taking 20 more shots than you are, but we’ll keep playing and keep getting better. But when they put forth the effort like they did tonight we’ll be tough to beat.”

Brooklyn weathered the Clippers’ early surge to get back within a point at halftime.

LA made six of its first eight shots and jumped out to an 18-6 lead and led Brooklyn 32-24 after the first quarter. But the Nets got two quick threes from Harris to start the second quarter, and DeAndre Jordan finished a lob from Harden to make it a 34-32 game less than two minutes into the quarter.

The Clippers extended their lead to 11 points, going up 56-45 with 3:26 to go in the half after consecutive 3-pointers from Marcus Morris Sr. The Nets closed the first half with a 12-2 run to make it 58-57 at the break. While the Nets struggled from 3-point range in the first half, shooting 26.7 percent, they shot 54.5 percent overall while converting 20-of-29 2-point field goal attempts, with Irving scoring 15 first-half points.

Brooklyn would find the long-range mark in the second half, making 9-of-16 after the break and ultimately shooting 41.9 percent for the game from 3-point range.

“They started incredibly hot and we didn’t start so hot,” said Nash. “Then we found ourselves, didn’t sustain it, and made shots in the end. But really it was a case of we started slow, found our rhythm and increased our level of play throughout the game. That’s a tough team, our guys battled, made it as difficult as they could on them defensively and show the skill we have offensively.”

Irving and the Nets kept on rolling into the third quarter, as he put up another 14 points in that period alone. His 3-pointer put the Nets up 88-86 in the final minute of the quarter before LA took a 90-88 lead into the fourth quarter. Brooklyn opened up the fourth quarter with a 7-3 burst, with a Harris 3-pointer putting the Nets up 95-93 with 8:44 remaining.

With the Clippers back in front 102-97, Durant popped in a short jumper, Irving knocked down a 3-pointer, and then Irving finished a twisting, reverse layup over his shoulder for a 104-102 Brooklyn lead with 4:58 remaining. After a timeout, consecutive 3-pointers from Irving and Harden made it a 13-0 Brooklyn run and a 110-102 Nets lead.

LA cut that lead to 110-106, but Durant hit a jumper and Harden made three free throws. After Kawhi Leonard hit a pair from the line for LA, Durant’s jumper made it 118-108. Irving, Harden, and Durant combined for 21 of Brooklyn’s final 23 points.

“You’ve got guys who can do multiple things on the floor late in the game,” said Durant. “Any coach in America wants the ball in their best players’ hands, and I think we’ve got three guys that are unselfish, that know how to play and I think we made the right plays down the stretch, especially Kyrie and James controlling the ball. I feel like, when those guys got it out top, they have the defense at their mercy. We’ve got to continue to be on the same page late in the games.”

The Clippers responded with a 9-0 run, with a Paul George 3-pointer bringing LA within 118-117 with 24.8 seconds remaining, but with the final 14 seconds turning into a battle of free throws, with the Nets sending the Clippers to the line rather than giving them shots at game-tying 3-pointers, Brooklyn held on for its ninth win in the last 12 games.

“It’s really obviously a great test for us,” said Nash. “They’re a team that's playing very well. Their two stars are playing incredibly well. Their role players or complimentary players are making threes at an incredible clip, and they have a lot of length defensively, so they can cause problems for anybody and that's why they have the best record in the league. So it’s important for us to keep growing every night win or lose. Tonight I said to the guys we got a great win but most importantly we got better. For us that’s the key is bringing that mentality and concentration to grow every single night and in the end will be a good team if we do that.”