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Nets fight off Lillard’s 60 points, take down Trail Blazers in Portland 119-115

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Brooklyn Nets v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images

They say teams find out who they really when they play on the road. If that’s the case, we saw a great version of the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night, a team that scrapped out a road victory that went right down to the wire ... and featured clutch performances from more than one player.

The Nets fought off a 60-point performance from Damian Lillard, more specifically a 7-0 run — all scored by Lillard — to cut Brooklyn’s 10-point lead down to three with 40 seconds left.

Spencer Dinwiddie had the hot hand but Kyrie Irving got the ball. And it worked.

Irving let the clock wind down as he dribbled way beyond the perimeter. It was a clear isolation situation as Irving then had 31 on the night. With the defender on its heels, Irving saw a lane to the left, and feasted on it, delivering a step-back floater to give Brooklyn a five-point lead with 17.8 seconds left.

The Trail Blazers missed on their next attempt and Joe Harris put this one out at the line as the Nets improved to 4-4, 119-115. It was the Nets first road win and their third win in the last four. The Blazers have yet to win at home and are among the NBA’s biggest disappointments at 3-6. They’ve lost four straight.

Irving finished with 33 points on 12-of-27 shooting — eight points coming in the third quarter. Dinwiddie had one more.

It wasn’t his stat line that impresses the most, rather the timeliness of his shots on the night.

The Nets found themselves down 103-98 as Dinwiddie looked on from the bench. Brooklyn’s offense had grown stagnant and Portland (Lillard) caught fire and jumped out on an 8-0 run, crowd on its feet.

In came Dinwiddie, and the run immediately ended. It started with a bucket from Dinwiddie, then an assist to Joe Harris for a corner three. Caris LeVert, who struggled most of the night, got involved and hit Jarrett Allen on a drop-off and then a kick to Kyrie for three, capping off a 17-2 run for Brooklyn, 115-105 lead with 1:41 left on the clock.

Kyrie hit the big shot, but Dinwiddie was the hero of the night. He came off the bench and filled the void of a struggling LeVert, dropping 34 points, on 11-of-18 shooting — 6-of-10 from three.

He’s dealt with his struggles early on, but it hasn’t fazed him, so he says.

Dinwiddie’s big night started right from the jump. He nailed four straight three’s while Caris LeVert missed eight of his first nine shots. Kenny Atkinson made the adjustment and inserted Dinwiddie in for LeVert with 8:51 left in the third quarter — much earlier than usual.

Dinwiddie dropped seven points in the first four minutes — the beginning of a 15-point surge from the guard, unstopped and untouched, all while giving the Nets a three-point lead entering the fourth.

The Nets played better defense than usual, forcing the Trail Blazers to shoot 41 percent from the field. They continued to struggle in the pick and roll, allowing Lillard to chew them up attacking the rim.

Before the game, Kenny Atkinson said that Lillard is the kind of player who can score 30 on any night. “I should’ve said [he could score] 60 … We threw the kitchen sink at him. He was just making incredible shots and we kept saying he’s going to tire out eventually, he’s going to fatigue.”

However, other than Lillard, the Trail Blazers shot 33 percent from the field. CJ McCollum was held to just eight points on 4-of-19 shooting.

The Nets had their moments on offense, but one important factor is that they cut down on the turnovers with only nine on the night, a step up compared to their average of 19.5 going into the game. Four players finished in double figures and the team shot 43 percent from deep. Brooklyn now leads the league in 3-point shooting at 40.5 percent.

It felt like Damian Lillard against the world. The Nets countered his attack with a 67-point effort from the Irving-Dinwiddie combo. Behind the duo, Brooklyn improved to 4-4 on the season, earning their first road victory of the year.

Getting Dinwiddie cooking the way he did tonight will be crucial going forward. The next step? Getting him, Kyrie and LeVert on the same page.

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CLAXTON MAKES DEBUT

Brooklyn’s second-round pick, Nicolas Claxton, made his NBA debut with DeAndre Jordan out with a sprained ankle. The Georgia product came in and grabbed an aggressive offensive board in his first possession, the beginning of a solid first half for him with six points and three rebounds (+9).

He finished the night with eight points and six rebounds in 12 minutes. Post-game, Kenny Atkinson called Claxton’s play “excellent.”

“When I first got in, it was moving extremely fast. I just had to calm down stick to my principles and the outcome was good,” said Claxton.

“He played amazing. I was so hyped to see him out there,” Allen said. “First couple minutes, got to get the nerves out for his first game as a rookie. But once he calmed down, he was getting offensive rebounds and getting putbacks.”

“He’s the second-most talented player on the team,” Dinwiddie said of Claxton.

JUGGERNAUT

The Nets are becoming an offensive juggernaut on the level of recent Warriors and Rockets teams. Don’t believe us? After Friday’s game, the Nets are FIRST in the NBA in points per game (120.8), FIRST in 3-pt shooting (40.5 percent), FIRST in rebounding per game (61.9), and FIRST in offensive rebounding per game (12.2),

BEYOND THE PAINT: Appreciating Chris Carrino

Chris Carrino had the call last night for the Nets, working with Sarah Kustok and Michael Grady.

NBA TV recently ran a special on Brooklyn Nets radio announcer, in which he discusses dealing with FSHD, a form of muscular dystrophy he’s suffered with since he was youth. Anyone who knows Chris understands how important he is to the Nets franchise and the people around him... A great worker and even better person.

Watch the feature. It’s worth your time. And, if you’d like to donate to his foundation, click here.

JOE TSAI HEALING WOUNDS?

In the maybe-we’re-reading-too-much-into-this category of news...

The Nets owner was in Shanghai Thursday. He hosted, along with Alibaba, the annual Pac12 China Game in Shanghai. As part of the prelims for the game — Colorado vs. Arizona State— players for both teams held a clinic with the Yao Ming Foundation. Yao of course is the president of the Chinese Basketball Association and thus key to any rapproachment between China and the NBA.

So you have to believe that any contact between NBA executives like Tsai is a good thing for the league which is still suffering from the fallout of Daryl Morey’s tweet last month supporting Hong Kong protesters. And you have to believe that Tsai will play a role in any resolution of the crisis.

THE OTHER TEAM IN TOWN

There is one?

Over at the New York Times, Sopan Deb tried his hand at viewing the Nets and Knicks seasons so far through Billy Joel favorites. He writes about the Nets in a section entitled, “Get It Right the First Time.” He also notes, “there is light on the other side of the Williamsburg Bridge.”

We would have appreciated a section on the Nets clutch performances ... “Big shot.”

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For a different perspective of the game, head on over to Blazers’ Edge, our sister site on SB Nation.

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Next up: Phoenix on Sunday, 8:00 PM ET.