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Kyrie Irving scores 35 as Nets snap three-game losing skid, beating Pacers, 104-94

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Indiana Pacers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

When you roll up the franchise’s biggest halftime lead in NINETEEN years, you’d better win and the Nets did.

Brooklyn certainly bounced back from three straight losses, displaying high energy along with big-time effort as the Nets defeated the Pacers, 104-94, With the win, the Nets improve to 15-12 on the season and snapped their longest losing streak of the season ... along with a six-game home losing skid vs. the Pacers -- their longest active home losing streak against any team. With the loss, the Pacers fall under .500 to 12-13. It was their fourth straight loss.

“The things I was talking to you guys about last night - effort, fight, connectivity, and what I have been telling them is that you can’t be having fun the way we are playing. Tonight, there were a lot of smiles, a lot of joy, and a lot of passion for their teammates and job,” Nash said following the win. “Just that is something to build on. I am proud of them for bringing it. We asked for it and they delivered. That’s a great sign.”

Brooklyn came out of the gates firing and playing well defensively, which after giving up 120 points in eight straight games was a welcome sign. Brooklyn’s defense held Indiana to only 18 first-quarter points, the second-lowest points allowed in an opening period this season. The Nets followed their strong first period with an even stronger second - holding Indiana to 12 second-quarter points while piling 35 in the period.

After heading into the locker room with a 62-30 lead, the franchise’s biggest halftime lead since the Jason Kidd era, the Pacers flipped the script a bit, battling from behind. Led by Domantas Sabonis, Indiana piled on 32 third-quarter points, capitalizing on Brooklyn’s unforced errors and lack of getting back in transition.

The Nets opened up the final 12 minutes of play with a 20-point lead. Despite the big lead, Indiana did not go away easily as their confidence began to spark. Despite a small push, the Nets kept their foot on the gas pedal on both ends and released their bench with 1:41 remaining. The Nets held a double-figure lead for 32 straight minutes, also a season-high.

Joe Harris noted the Nets’ impact defensively following the win, noting how it was the best defense played all season, including key elements.

“We were definitely a lot more locked in, focused, and the communication was there,” Joe Harris said following the win. “Effort was there and we were covering for one another. We haven’t played defense like that pretty much the entire season so it was definitely good to see us taking a step in the right direction.”

James Harden went a level deeper, touching on the specific area that Brooklyn excelled as a group.

“Communication has to be key. Our bigs, especially DeAndre, did an unbelievable job of communicating in that pick-and-roll. We know how important that Brogdon and Sabonis pick-and-roll is, and our communication was unbelievable and it showed.” Harden continued, “our pick-and-roll defense was great tonight.”

Kyrie Irving paved the way for the Nets with a game-high 35 points, eight assists, and four rebounds in 35 minutes of play. But his most impressive stat was his success at the line. Irving went to the line 17 times and came away with 17 points. For the season, he’s now at 95 percent. James Harden was also perfect, going 10-of-10. The last time a starting guard combination to go 27-of-27? Harden and Russell Westbrook.

James Harden continued to be a double-double machine for Brooklyn, finishing with 19 points and 11 rebounds to go along with five assists in 36 minutes of play. Harden had a double-double at the half, marking his fourth career first-half double-double. Indeed, his 11 rebounds at the midway point was the most he’d ever grabbed in a half over his career.

DeAndre Jordan bounced back in the win after roundly being criticized during and after Tuesday’s game. Jordan recorded three blocks to go along with a double-double of 12 points and 13 rebounds in 37 minutes.

As a team, Brooklyn finished the win shooting 42.1 percent overall and 29.0 percent from deep - recording 13 turnovers including a game-ending 24-second violation. The Nets put up a solid battle on the boards, 46-43, against two productive bigs.

As for Indiana, Donatas Sabonis scored 18 points in 35 minutes followed by Malcolm Brogdon with 15 points in 35 minutes. Indiana finished the loss shooting 39.1 percent from the field and 39.5 percent from deep. They’re still hurting from the loss of Victor Oladipo in the four-team trade that brought Harden to Brooklyn.

The Nets kicked off the game celebrating Lunar New Year. Prior to the tip, Irving took center court to wish Chinese fans a happy Lunar New Year.

With the arena draped in red-and-yellow, the colors of the Chinese flag, the game also featured a music video from Chinese pop star Hou Minghao set against Brooklyn vistas and Nets highlights..

The Film Room

Well, this was certainly an improved effort, now wasn’t it? Wait, let me check something.

*Glances at Indiana’s win/loss-record prior to tonight’s game*

Ah. Makes sense.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but after falling facefirst (no, literally) against the basement-dwelling Detroit Pistons, the Nets showed up BIG with a titanium-strong defensive showcase against a perennial playoff team. I swear, this season is becoming a big ole’ meme of Jekyll and Hyde game-to-game swings.

And guess what? You’ll never believe this. The villain (kidding...) from last game, DeAndre Jordan, was Brooklyn’s hero on Wednesday night, holding Pacers All-Star forward to 7-of-20 shooting. He more than held his ground against one of the best bigs in the league, mixing in armbars with his other hand raised, while shuffling his footwork to stymie the Lithuanian star.

Moreover, it was his communication as Brooklyn’s defensive general that paid immense dividends on Wednesday––in a performance that teammate Joe Harris later said, “we haven’t played defense like that... probably entire season.”

Here’s what DJ had to say about the honor of controlling the communication flow on the court.

“Everybody’s not going to be a talker and a loud communicator, but that’s okay. As long as we’re connected, I think that that’s good, said DeAndre. “I know that I’m very shy but on the floor, I talk a lot... I put a lot of that on myself and being able to come out and just communicate, whether it’s calling plays, telling guys to get through, different things, and just kind of getting us engaged on that end.”

Though Kyrie Irving’s scoring outburst was a spectacle to behold, I’d argue pretty strongly that DeAndre Jordan was Brooklyn’s best player on the floor. From erasing Sabonis’ impact to communicating and rotating like a pro, DeAndre Jordan set the tone on Wednesday, and it was a big reason why Brooklyn’s defense was the way it was (really good!). I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say: More of this, DeAndre.

Fair Value Harris

As we’ve noted, Joe Harris has been making his four year, $72 million deal if not a bargain then a fair value. Joe E. Buckets has now moved into sixth all-time in three-point shooting and hitting better than 49 percent from deep while averaging better than 15 points. In the last seven games, however, he’s been on an ever better roll. Harris has averaged 17.0 points while hitting 56.6 percent overall and 52.8 percent from deep. On Wednesday night, he continued along, scoring 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting overall and 3-of-7 from deep.

Harris was asked if he planned to participate in the 3-point shooting contest, a competition he won two years ago. “I wish well to all the participants,” he deadpanned (or we assume he was deadpan behind that mask. You decide.)

Barclays Center and Nets thank Caris LeVert with tribute video

Caris LeVert returned to the Barclays Center for the first time since being traded ... and undergoing kidney surgery following the discovery of a small mass.

Prior to the start of the second quarter, the Nets played a minute-long tribute video, honoring LeVert’s tenure as a Net. LeVert saluted Brooklyn’s bench following the tribute video and was greeted by various Nets players, including Kyrie Irving, during the game and after the final buzzer. A majority of the team and Nets director of sports science, Dan Meehan, all offered LeVert big hugs.

Here’s the full video of LeVert’s tribute video and his reaction.

Steve Nash opens up about the loss of Kevin Durant

Hot take: the Nets are better when Kevin Durant is in the lineup (!!). While the Nets are just two short days away from getting their superstar back after a run-in with the NBA’s COVID-19 Safety & Health protocols, things haven’t exactly been easy without him. Steve Nash detailed how and where Brooklyn misses KD... on and off the floor.

“I think he gives the team confidence. He’s obviously one of the best players in the game and the history of the game. But for our team he gives us confidence,” said Nash pre-game. “I think he gives us size, which we lack sorely without him––even with him, we’re a small team... He brings a lot to the table, whether he has the ball or doesn’t. He’s an important part of what we’re trying to get back soon.”

Or as Sponge Bob might say...

Per Will Hanley

What’s next

With the Nets sixth back-to-back in the books, Brooklyn will be back in action on Saturday when the team travels to San Francisco to play the Golden State Warriors - beginning their five-game west coast road trip.

The game will hopefully feature the return of Kevin Durant, who missed four games due to three (and a half) games due to health and safety protocols. The Warriors plan a tribute to the two-time NBA Finals MVP.

And when they return, the Nets will be cheered on by FANS! The Nets February 23 game vs. the Kings at Barclays will feature a limited number of fans, per an announcement by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo earlier Wednesday.

For a different perspective, check out Indy Cornrows - our Pacers sister site for SB Nation.