Nic Claxton loved his first taste of crunchtime and made the most of it.
The second-year forward was part of a five-man unit that went the distance in the fourth quarter together, teaming with James Harden, Joe Harris, Tyler Johnson, and Jeff Green to put the finishing touches on Brooklyn’s 124-115 comeback win in Indiana.
“Nic, he's just been giving us that energy, that young energy that we need off of the bench,” said Harden. “Spreading the floor, blocking shots, rebounding the basketball and catching lobs. I think at any time a player — especially as young as he is — who just goes out there and plays his butt off, great things happen for him. And then obviously, myself and the vets are telling him places to be and defensively, where to be and things like that. But we can't teach him how the effort and he's been doing an unbelievable job of doing that and he's giving us that boost off the bench.”
The Nets had chopped a 16-point deficit down to two going into the fourth quarter. With Indiana leading 96-94, Claxton dunked home a rebound — one of Brooklyn’s 14 offensive boards on the night, leading to 18 second-chance points — and Harden turned a turnover into a finish in the lane to tie the game at 96.
Back at the other end, Claxton blocked a mid-range jumper and immediately took off, catching Harden’s pass ahead of the crowd for a layup and a 98-96 Nets lead. Those six straight points were the start of a 13-2 run that put Brooklyn in the lead for good.
“It’s great, psychologically being able to finish the game, a clutch game, the first game that I’ve finished in an actual NBA game, so it feels good and hopefully, I can build on this and be able to do it again whenever my number is called,” said Claxton. “It definitely feels good to be out there, staying healthy, stringing games together. This is the first time in my NBA career that I’ve done this and I put in a lot, a lot, a lot of work to be in this position now. That’s what everybody doesn’t see. And it hasn’t been easy but I’m here and what I gotta keep doing, keep going.”
Claxton finished with 11 points and eight rebounds in a season-high 22 minutes, with the Nets plus-24 in his time on the floor.
It’s been three weeks since Claxton made his season debut, coming back from shoulder and knee injuries. This was his third double-figure scoring game in nine outings, and he’s averaging 8.8 points and 4.0 rebounds in 16.7 minutes per game while shooting 64.7 percent.
“I had to work for this,” said Claxton. “This wasn’t given to me – being able to finish games with these guys and in high school it was the same way, in college, it was the same way. My first year of college, I didn’t really play much. Second year, I was the star of the team but that’s just how it’s always been, that’s just how my journey is. They say history repeats itself so, I’m enjoying the journey and just taking everything day by day, staying present – never getting too high, never getting too low.”