The Brooklyn Nets are now 13-1 in their last 14 games, but their bounceback win against the New Orleans Pelicans did not come easy. They trailed by as much as 15 points in the first half and looked out of sorts while playing in front of a hostile crowd.
It was one of those games where Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were both not at their best. Durant finished the game with 33 points, 10 rebounds and three assists, but struggled from the field as he shot 9 of 26 overall.
Irving had similar struggles, finishing with 19 points, five rebounds and five assists, but he also had trouble making his shots through most of the game. He made 7 of 22 field goal attempts and 3 of 10 from beyond the arc. To his credit, though, he was there to make the big buckets when they counted, as he scored 10 of his points in the fourth quarter. With the Nets clinging to a tenuous 101-98 lead with 1:17 to go, Irving scored their final seven points and led them to the 108-102 win.
A large share of the credit must go to the Nets’ supporting cast, though, who did all of the little things on the defensive side of the ball that helped them claw back into the game.
Nic Claxton was the best example of this, as he finished with nine points, nine rebounds, four assists and a game-leading five blocks. Ben Simmons also had a good defensive game, finishing with six points, six rebounds, 10 assists, three steals and a block.
The defensive efforts from Claxton and Simmons were then matched on the other end by Royce O’Neale and T.J. Warren, who both shot 5 of 8 from the field on the way to a combined 29 points.
This is the type of game that will make the Nets feel good about their playoff chances, as they were facing one of the Western Conference’s best teams. Even with Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram missing significant time, the Pelicans are still third in the West, where only 6.5 games separates the first and tenth seeds. The win is also important because they’ve got a couple of tough games against conference rivals the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics next.