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Nets rally from 17 points down, escape Dallas with win, 102-99

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Brooklyn Nets v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

They got it done.

The Nets defeated the Mavericks, 102-99 in Dallas Tuesday night, a character win if there ever was one. With the comeback victory, Brooklyn improves to 17-7 on the young season and up their road record to 9-2, tied for best in the league with the Suns.

“I thought the character,” said Steve Nash on his biggest takeaway from Tuesday night’s win. “We asked them at halftime to not get discouraged. We thought there were lots of good things in the first half, but we just didn’t convert. We had good looks, generated some opportunities and there were patches where we didn’t, but there were patches where we did and didn’t covert. The third wasn’t great, but they won the third by a point then held them to 13 in the fourth and 37 in the second half.”

After trailing by a game-high 17 points, Brooklyn hit the final 12 minutes trailing by 11. The Nets erased the 11-point deficit and took their first lead with 6:41 remaining. The quest for yet another fourth-quarter comeback came down to the final minute. Brooklyn hit the final sixty seconds of play with a 102-99 lead after a fadeaway jumper from Kevin Durant, who was doubled throughout the final minutes. No matter.

“I thought we grew into it. There were times it wasn't great and it wasn’t smooth but when it really counted, we cleaned some things up,” said Nash on the Nets managing double-teams against Durant down the stretch. “Without Joe Harris, it’s a little different for us. It makes it a little easier for people to double but our guys stuck with it and got our spacing a little bit better. We had a little more of a plan to attack it. In the end, I thought they did a great job at it.”

After Steve Nash successfully challenged a call on James Harden, it came down to Nicolas Claxton at the foul line to seal a win. Claxton went on to miss both free throws, leaving the door ajar for the Mavericks, down three with 20.0 seconds left. In their last hope, Brooklyn turned up the perimeter D and Dallas ended missing two heavily contested threes, including one at the buzzer and Brooklyn escaped with the win.

The Nets held the Mavericks to 4-of-21 shooting from the field and 1-of-12 from three-point range in the fourth. The end result — The Nets outscored the Mavericks 27-13 in the final frame.

Durant led the Nets with 24 points on 10-of-22 shooting from the field and 1-of-4 from three. The Nets superstar, who struggled until the fourth quarter, tallied seven rebounds and three assists as well in his 41-minute performance.

James Harden recorded a near triple-double of 23 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds in a game-high 42 minutes of play. Harden shot 7-of-13 overall and 3-of-6 from deep. LaMarcus Aldridge, who didn’t play down the stretch for Brooklyn, finished with 15 points, four rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes. Nash and the Nets opted to go with Claxton in the final minutes, finishing with six points and nine rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench.

“He was great,” said Nash on Claxton’s performance. “He gave us another option to have a versatile defender out there when

James Johnson. as he has in the past couple of weeks, had another productive outing off the bench, finishing with 12 points, four rebounds and four assists in 25 minutes of play. Patty Mills followed with 10 points in 33 minutes of play as a starter.

“He’s an interesting offensive player,” said Nash on Johnson. “He makes some key shots but what we love about him offensively is his ability to create offense on the second side: his ability to dribble at shooters, make plays and get to the rim and finish. He’s got a real quickness for a guy his size and length.”

Brooklyn Nets v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

Brooklyn started Harden, Mills, Bembry, Durant and Aldridge. The Nets made only five of their first 13 shots while the Mavericks hit seven of their first 16 to take an early 15-10 advantage with 5:05 remaining in the first.

Although Brooklyn forged a small 7-0 run to knot the contest up at 17 with 2:36 left, Dallas’ ball movement opened up open looks from three late to grab a 27-21 advantage after one. The Mavericks scored 14 of their 27 points in the paint while the Nets were led by Aldridge with seven points after one.

Dallas turned defense into offense, sparked by the activity of Porzingis to string together a quick 9-5 scoring run to begin the second frame and grab the momentum. Without Durant on the floor, Harden scored five points with a pair of assists to bring Brooklyn within four but the Mavericks' pocket passes and scoring down low kept their advantage within two possessions. Johnson kept the Nets afloat through Dallas’ offensive attack to the rim, playing solid defense while hitting a pair of threes despite the Nets struggling to space the floor.

And then it got worse. Dallas closed out the half hitting seven of their last eight shots — two of which were 25-foot and 30-foot stepback threes from Doncic — to take a 12-point lead at the break. Aldridge and Johnson combined for 25 points while Harden and Durant combined for only 15 points for Brooklyn during the first half.

Brooklyn Nets v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

It was a cold quarter for the Nets. Brooklyn struggled out of the gates to knock down shots while Dallas’ floor spacing continued to open quality looks and pocket pass outlets for interior scoring. The Mavericks were manned by Doncic and Porzingis in the third while it took Harden and Durant till the midway point for the third to forge a quick 7-0 run to spark the stagnant offense and cut the deficit to 10.

The Mavericks allowed the Nets to hang around and in the closing minutes of the third, the youth of Claxton and Thomas, along with the facilitating of Harden sparked some momentum for Brooklyn, but the team couldn’t get over the hump. Brooklyn hit the final 12 minutes of play trailing 86-75.

“We’ve been in this league long enough to know it’s winning time,” said Harden on the approach heading into the fourth quarter. “It’s go-time, but throughout the course of the game, I feel like we got good shots and we just missed them. We just kept sticking with it, kept sticking with it and you just got to keep shooting, especially if that’s what you do. I think we did that. Not for ourselves though but for our teammates as well.”

Brooklyn flipped the script to start the fourth, forging a 10-2 run to cut the deficit to only three points. Durant, after going 1-for-8 in the third, registered five points in the strong start. After Doncic picked up his fourth foul, Brooklyn took their first lead of the game at the charity stripe (91-90) with 6:41 left, but the game came down to the final minute. In the end, Brooklyn went on to win the road game by a slim margin of three points.

“Our team, we were just resilient. We kept fighting, kept fighting and kept pushing and it doesn’t matter who we were down. The game isn’t over until the final buzzer,” Harden said.

The Film Room

Let’s just skip the fourth quarter because for the first three periods, Brooklyn’s offense was stuck in the mud. The Nets shot just 31% from deep. Kevin Durant couldn’t get it going. Things were looking dire.

But then, KD found it. He splashed pull-up midrange shots, connected on trailing threes in semi-transition. With their leader showing some verve, the Nets absorbed his bravado through osmosis. The Nets began to play like a contender, a one seed, on the back of their MVP.

This brings us to the last three minutes. With Kevin Durant rolling, the Mavericks began sending double-teams his way. Interestingly, those double came via James Harden’s man. That’s right, the Mavericks were double-teaming off of James Harden, knowing he isn’t a huge threat to make plays off the catch.

At first, it worked. The Nets ended up with a missed 27-foot stepback from James Harden after a Mavericks double stifled Durant in the post. A minute later, Brooklyn ended up with a whiffled 20-footer from Harden while KD was blanketed.

But then, the Nets did it. They adjusted. Steve Nash, who had himself a killer game pushing the right buttons in the third quarter with the insertion of Cam Thomas and Nicolas Claxton, altered Brooklyn’s spacing. Instead of putting James Harden, a weaker catch-and-shoot guy, “one pass away” from KD as the nearest offensive player (like so), Brooklyn slotted Patty Mills in that spot.

The math was simple. Mills would dump the ball to KD on the block, and the Mavericks would struggle with doubling Durant with Mills’ man. The Mavericks had no fear of putting themselves in rotation by doubling with Harden as the entry passer, but with Mills instead, Dallas was understandably tentative about leaving the league-leading marksman open.

This gave Kevin Durant space to do what he does: Closeout games better than any player in the league, full stop.

“They were putting two on the ball so easy, I didn’t have to make a move or break down the defense. They were bringing another guy at me, so just try to make the right play, and guys were aggressive on the back end,” said Durant after the game.

Yep, hitting clutch buckets would certainly qualify as “making the right play.”

James Johnson on a roll

Now in his 13th season, the 34-year-old James Johnson has become a crucial piece for the Nets. In the last eight games, since he played three games without a point two weeks ago, is averaging 10 points while shooting 58.8 percent overall and 41.7 percent from deep. He’s also averaged 4.5 rebounds, all in 22 minutes.

And in the fourth quarter, he’s averaging 11 minutes per.

What’s next

The Nets will travel to Houston to host the Rockets on Wednesday, Nov. 8. The game is scheduled to tip at 8:00 p.m. ET. It will be James Harden’s first return to the Toyota Center with a full house of fans.

For a different perspective on Tuesday’s game, check out Mavs Moneyball — our sister site covering the Mavericks.