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THAT’S MORE LIKE IT! Nets take down Harden and the Rockets, 123-116

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Houston Rockets v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Back in 2017, Kevin Durant told Caris LeVert to ‘be ready for the moment.’ A little over two years later, KD sat on Brooklyn’s bench, watching LeVert and the Nets take down James Harden and the Houston Rockets on their first nationally televised game of the season.

It was Brooklyn’s best game of the young season, forcing Harden to shoot just 2-of-16 and from three and 10-of-31 overall while containing Houston to just 12-of-48 shooting from deep. Harden was coming off a 59-point performance vs. Washington two days ago.

Contrary to the first four games for Brooklyn, their defense was good enough to churn out stops late while the offense looked fine tuned behind the lead of Taurean Prince and Caris LeVert.

It wasn’t just about Kyrie Irving. It was about the Brooklyn Nets, as a team.

“We can’t rely on Kyrie every night to be Superman,” Kenny Atkinson said after the game.

Prince scored 27 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. He hit the dagger before the official dagger — a three-pointer to go up eight with two minutes left. The Nets squandered a 13-point lead and Houston crept their way back, down five with 3:45 left following a three-point from Daniel House.

It looked like it might be a similar script in that the Nets controlled the tempo for most of the game, just to let it slip in the fourth. But Prince wasn’t having it. Nor was Kyrie Irving.

Irving was one of three superstars highlighted in this one — all three who struggled throughout the night. However, Irving, who was just 2-of-8 from the field in the fourth, took matters into his own hands. With the crowd on its feet, Kyrie went iso and found himself in a weak double team. He dribbled his way through, stepped back, and nailed a step back three with 50 seconds left, eight-point Nets lead.

Game. Set. Match.

The Nets won by a final score of 123-116, now 2-3 on the season with a game at Detroit Saturday night. Irving finished with 22 points, 10 assists but six turnovers. LeVert finished with 25 points but five turnovers. Joe Harris chipped in 15 points and nine rebounds, while Garrett Temple chipped in 16 off the bench.

The Nets assisted on 26 of 42 field goals and hit 19-of-32 three-pointers.

It was a typical, temperamental game for the Nets...

THE HOLE:

The Nets couldn’t have asked for a better start, especially from Prince who dropped 13 points in the first, had the Nets up 23-15. Then, everything changed. It was almost like watching a happy movie turn sad real quick.

Houston went on an 18-1 run and led 33-24 after the first quarter. They Nets scored one point in the final 4:19, committing five turnovers and shooting 0-for-4 from the field. Atkinson looked for any type of spark and even inserted Dzanan Musa, but that didn’t solve any problems.

THE PUNCH BACK:

Prince (13 points) picked up the Nets early, while Temple brought them back into the game with 11 points off the bench. Behind Temple and LeVert’s lead, the Nets went on a 23-6 extended run and led 61-59 at half. At that point, the Nets were 10-of-15 from three with the ball moving, rather than relying on isolation basketball.

An encouraging sign? They did it while Kyrie was on the bench, which means the role players/bench finally stepped up

HUGE THIRD QUARTER:

As Ian Eagle said on the YES telecast, “It’s purple rain for Prince!”

Prince dropped 10 in the third quarter, while LeVert asserted himself with nine as the Nets took their biggest lead at 15-12 entering the fourth. At that point, Harden and Westbrook were a combined 14-of-42 from the field. The Nets out-scored Houston 34-24 in the quarter and had all momentum entering the fourth quarter.

THE DENNIS SCOTT EFFECT

What?

Kenny Aktinson held up a large sign, just like college football coaches, and for the same reason.

Atkinson said post-game that the idea of the placard came from a staff member. He said the team was struggling to communicate defensive schemes and he wanted to have a “little bit of humor with it, too.”

“It’s just a defensive coverage we have. And we’ve had trouble communicating it to the guys in the past, so we came up with this idea. We have to find a way so everybody knows. Sometimes you have to add a little humor to things. It sinks in a little more with the guys,” Atkinson said, adding, “I’m not going to tell you exactly what it is.”

Why Dennis Scott? Nobody’s saying, but think of the possibilities in future games!

Bobby Marks said that as odd as it looks, it may be perfectly acceptable under league rules. Marks tweeted that after checking the NBA Operations Manual under “conduct on the bench”. “I believe that’s legal- because I don’t think it’s ever been done before for the league to put in a rule,” said Marks.

REPLACEMENT PLAYER

With fifth game now out of the way, the Nets can sign a replacement player to replace Wilson Chandler, who will sit another 20 games through December 15.

Reporting over the summer had the Nets signing Lance Thomas, a 3-and-D forward to fill in. Thomas, who had been Knicks captain, was signed by the Nets on September 27, then cut October 19. But Thomas only played 11 minutes in preseason, in the first game vs. Basquete Franca.

Of course, the Nets, as Marks points out, don’t have to sign anyone. They could, for example, give minutes to either of their two-ways: 6’11” Henry Ellenson or 6’7” Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.

Expect news on that this weekend. Or not.

LEADING SCORERS

The game featured the NBA’s two leading scorers, James Harden at 36.6 compared to Kyrie Irving’s 32.6, but so far, Irving is far more efficient. Harden is shooting 37/20/95 while Irving is at 46/44/90.

Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard and Kawhi Leonard are all at 29.2.

Irving is the first player in NBA history to average at least 30 points and five assists in his first five games with a new team. It was Irving’s first double-double as a Net.

TEMPLE’S AMAZING LINE

On the same day a glowing CBS Sports profile of Garrett Temple was published, the 33-year-old had one heck of a stat line ... 24 minutes, 6-of-9 shooting overall, 4-of-6 from three, 16 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks. He also had zero turnovers and zero fouls.

LAST MATCH UP

The last time these two teams played, the Nets came back from 13 down with 4:01 to go in regulation, eight points with 1:09 to go and seven down with 1:28 to go in OT to stun. The Nets made an improbable run behind Spencer Dinwiddie who scored nine points in the final 26.2. The Nets scored 46-fourth quarter points an won, 145-142.

For more, head on over to Dream Shake, our sister blog on SB Nation.

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Next up: Nets at Pistons, Saturday at 7 PM ET!