Nets 121, Celtics 109: Kyrie Irving Scores 40 as Brooklyn Returns With a Win

Kyrie Irving opened the second half of the season with a show, pouring in 40 points in 65 percent shooting as the Brooklyn Nets powered through to a 121-109 win over the Boston Celtics at Barclays Center on Thursday night.

The win made it 11 in the last 12 games for the 25-13 Nets, who closed out the Celtics in the fourth quarter after recovering from a slow start.

It was a postgame consensus that the Nets were shaking off some All-Star break rust, something a Wednesday evening practice could only do so much to remedy. But after falling behind by 11 points in the first quarter, the Nets burst back into a halftime lead, and then outscored the Celtics 33-23 in the fourth quarter to lock down the win.

“Anytime you put something down, whether it be writing, whether it be art, when you put it down for a few days and you come back, you’re going to be a little rusty,” said Irving. “In the flow of the game, it took us a quarter and a half to get out of that spell that we were in. They wanted the game. We’re going against great teams every single night, every team wants to beat us. But we just made adjustments like any smart team should do down the line. Once we got acclimated, I felt like we were good tonight.”

Irving made 15-of-23 shots, including 5-of-8 3-pointers, and made all five of his free throws. He grabbed eight rebounds and added three assists. With the Nets leading by four points and under four minutes to go, he scored eight straight Brooklyn points, including a pair of 3-pointers. It was a season-high scoring night for Irving, and his fifth 40-point game as a Net, tied for third in franchise history.

James Harden posted a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds, plus eight assists. Landry Shamet made a season-high six 3-pointers on nine attempts while scoring 18 points. Joe Harris had 12 points and Jeff Green scored 11 for Brooklyn.

“Obviously Kyrie was sensational,” said Nets coach Steve Nash. “James managed the game, as he does. But everyone made big shots. There were moments in both halves where Landry made big threes when we were struggling. Jeff Green made a big three. Tyler made a big three. Nic Claxton’s fourth quarter minutes were better I thought. There was that, but it was also, I just thought, getting stops when we needed it. Didn’t turn the ball over second half like we did in the first and got stops when we needed it. And that’s the way it’s gotta be. We’ve got to take care of the basketball and we’ve got to find a way to go on defensive runs.”

It was Shamet who first got the Nets going, knocking down his first four 3-point attempts. After his third three of the game midway through the second quarter brought Brooklyn within a basket, Irving got the Nets even for the first time in the game at 38.

Irving followed up a few minutes later with eight straight points that put the Nets up 51-45 before they took a 58-55 lead into halftime. After the Celtics ran off the first nine points of the second half, Irving got the Nets back in rhythm again with eight straight Brooklyn points on the way to scoring 14 in the quarter. A Harris 3-pointer got Brooklyn even at 74, and Irving spun into a short jumper to give the Nets the lead, and they went into the fourth quarter up by two.

“I think that's what makes the game beautiful is being able to have spurts,” said Irving. “It's just the flow of the game but when it gets to that quarter and it's winning time. I've always said it throughout my career; I enjoy it more than anything else. So my thing is just having a sustained effort throughout the whole game and being able to play the fourth quarter comfortably. And we had that tonight. In some games we're not gonna have the flow on our side and we just got to be able to battle through that.”

The Nets then opened the fourth quarter with a 12-4 run, starting with a Harden jumper. Shamet knocked down a 3-pointer and Claxton flashed down the lane to flush a Harden feed for a 95-88 lead. After Jaylen Brown scored for Boston, Green made 3-of-3 from the line, then connected on a corner three for a 100-90 Nets lead and a Celtics timeout with 8:55 remaining.

Boston answered with seven straight before Shamet made his sixth 3-pointer of the game, and after Daniel Theis scored for Boston, Harris hit another 3-pointer for a 106-99 lead. With the Nets up 108-106, Harden finished a drive and Irving stepped into a 3-pointer for a 113-106 lead with 3:14 remaining. After a Harris steal, Irving’s 3-pointer had Brooklyn up 116-109 as the game hit the two-minute mark.

“It was sloppy in stretches,” said Nash. “You could tell we were not as sharp as we’d like to be, but that’s, I’m not faulting the players for that. They needed their break. This was an easy game to lose. They played a very good team that won four in a row, that’s as healthy as they’ve been. We weathered a couple storms out there. First quarter wasn’t great. They had a 9-0 run to start the second half, and after that we played great basketball. We’re all so proud of the guys. Some rust and their concentration levels and their effort were excellent to get the game in hand.”