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Seven Nets in double-figures as shorthanded Brooklyn escapes with win in NOLA, 134-129

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Brooklyn Nets v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Grit, thy name is Brooklyn.

Led by Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn and their nine available players overcame adversity Tuesday, defeating New Orleans, 134-129. With the win, the Nets improve to 38-19 on the season and are tied with the Sixers for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. All this after the Nets announced pre-game that James Harden was out “indefinitely” after a rehab “setback.”

“At the end of the day, he made some really difficult shots,” Nash said on Irving. “There wasn’t a ton of movement on the last three possessions. You tip your hat to your star player who makes the shots but, our guys were terrific all night. When he wasn't in the game, I thought our team played really well. That’s really key, especially when we are down on nine guys.”

The win did not come easy in the Big Easy. The Nets entered the final minute nursing a two-point lead and Irving, who finished with a team-high 32 points (24 in the second half), eight assists and two rebounds in 38 minutes, went to close. The Nets guard hit a mid-range jumper to extend the lead four and then with 26.2 seconds remaining, Irving them drove to the basket and nifty finished the layup to put Brooklyn up 128-123.

The Pelicans responded with a big offensive rebound, leading to a Kira Lewis Jr. three to cut the deficit to three. After an intentional foul, Joe Harris, who scored 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field and 3-of-6 from deep, hit one of two free throws to give New Orleans a small sense of hope trailing 129-126 with 12.7 seconds remaining. Brandon Ingram, who scored 27 points for New Orleans, hit two three throws to cut the lead to one with 11.4 seconds remaining.

Irving connected on two free throws with 10.5 seconds left to put the Nets up three. New Orleans was out of timeouts and Brooklyn intentionally fouled Ingram after crossing halfcourt. The Pelicans wing missed his second free throw and Bruce Brown once again played a key role — 11 points, four steals and 11 rebounds — to go along with plenty of Brownie points off the box score, snagged the board and made one of two free throws to put the Nets up three with 4.8 seconds.

“We still want to think it over. Learn, grow, but tonight, I thought they executed. (We) made shots but also at the end of the game with the fouling and making free throws, we did a nice job,” Nash said. “It’s another good experience for the guys.”

The game finished with Irving hitting two free throws, giving him 15 for the quarter.

The Nets had seven of their nine available players finish in double-figures. Brooklyn shot 55.1 percent from the field and 37.8 percent from deep in the road win. The win improves the Nets NBA-best record against the West competition to 19-6.

Brooklyn iced the game off a key defensive stop courtesy of Irving, who swiped the ball and last touched Zion Williamson, who finished with a team-high 33 points, with 2.6 seconds remaining.

“It ended up being a great play. He had the option to foul him on the catch but he made a heck of a defensive play and luckily we got the call,” Nash said. “That was pivotal and we didn’t have to guard another possession.”

The Pelicans poured it on the sluggish Nets early, forging a 16-0 run on 11-of-13 shooting to build a 21-8 lead with 7:17 remaining. Brooklyn responded with an 11-2 run and got a big energy boost from Jeff Green, who drove down the lane and emphatically slammed home a one-handed poster over Jaxson Hayes.

The Nets capped off the first extending their scoring run to 18-8 to cut the deficit to 29-26. Brooklyn capitalized off-balanced scoring with seven of the nine active players scoring in the frame. While Jordan was the only Net to play the full 12 minutes in the first, Bruce Brown was the difference-maker.

Brown, who scored two points and four rebounds in seven minutes off the bench, was a +10 in the frame and jolted high-energy defense. His defensive jolt help assist Brooklyn in holding New Orleans to only eight points in the final seven minutes of the first.

The Nets made clear adjustments on the defensive glass in the second to limit the Pelicans’ second-chance opportunities. Brooklyn began to pick up momentum midway through the second frame and briefly tied up the game at 54 with 49.4 remaining. Despite tying up the score, New Orleans capped off the first half with a 59-57 lead.

Brooklyn got great boosts from Jeff Green, Griffin, and Shamet - who combined for 31 points in the first half. Outside of the box score, Brown served as the glue to the Nets' first-half performance with his high-intensity defense and hustle. Brown hit the break with seven points and six rebounds off the bench, nursing a game-high +17.

Brooklyn shot 20-of-42 (47.6 percent) from the field but struggled from deep, shooting 6-of-22 (27.3 percent). Despite struggling shooting from behind the arc, the Nets presence along the perimeter opened up the lane. Brooklyn was outscored in the paint but scored 22 of their 57 points inside the paint.

The Nets took their first lead since the score was 8-5 in the first frame with an Irving three to take a 66-65 advantage with 8:45. Brooklyn’s zone gave New Orleans problems to move the ball inside or swing the ball, resulting in the Nets generating quick offense off their broken plays. The Nets forged a quick 12-0 run, highlighted by a pair of Harris threes as Brooklyn grew a 10-point lead.

Brooklyn’s 12-point lead quickly diminished to a single point heading into the fourth. The Pelicans built momentum heading into the final 12 minutes of play on a 12-6 run on 11 straight-made shots in the final three minutes of the third quarter. Despite NOLA gaining momentum heading into the final 12, Shamet provided the Nets with a tomahawk jam to electrify his teammates.

The Nets three-balls were falling in the fourth but so was New Orleans. Midway through the fourth, it was a game of who can capitalize off turnovers and get stops. The Nets forged a 6-0 run over a minute span but the run was broken by a Ball three to cut the lead to six with 3:34 remaining.

The Film Room

The Nets have been *checks the injury report* dealing with a LOT over the past few weeks. LaMarcus Aldridge’s sudden retirement. Kevin Durant’s on-again, off-again availability. And then today, James Harden suffered a setback to his strained right hamstring.

While a lot hasn’t gone Brooklyn’s way recently, the Blake Griffin buy-low signing is a different story.

To be clear, he’s not the elite above-the-rim player of old. And to be truthful, he has nights where he looks ineffective and perhaps a little unsure of how to make an impact with hindered athleticism. But when he’s feeling it? The dude is knocking down 42% of his threes, including 47.1% of his catch-and-shoot looks.

He also drew his team-high eighth charge in just 12 games as a Net. AGAINST ZION. Ouch! His 19 charges drawn are tied for the league lead alongside Los Angeles’ Montrezl Harrell and Toronto’s Kyle Lowry.

The passing has been as good as advertised. This underhand shuffle pass out of the crossover looked like it was ripped straight out of a rugby game. Notice how he whips that thing to the basket the second he sees New Orleans switching the pick-and-roll with him and TLC. In my best Nekias Duncan voice, the best way to beat a switch is with a slip!

With him shooting the three-ball so well, opponents are closing out to him with more aggression. Blake, meanwhile, is still slammin’.

We’ve said it before, but Blake Griffin on the minimum is a steal.

Nets react to Chauvin Verdict

Landy Shamet said the Nets watched the verdict of the Derek Chauvin murder trial in their locker room. “Seeing the guilty verdict — I am happy that the justice system came through and saw it the way it should be seen,” said Shamet. You can watch the full video of Shamet’s comments here, in which he called the verdict a “flashbulb moment.”

Kyrie Irving shared his thoughts as well.

“We have a long way to go as a country,” said Kyrie. “Obviously, we have some progress being made in terms of the conversations being had and justice being served. But we still have a long way to go. It’s a great time to reflect and see how far we’ve come in the last year with the verdict and the case, and unfortunately losing a few lives due to police brutality and just violence out in the streets. We just want to continue to galvanize each other and being there for one another as human beings and continue to support justice being served.”

As did Blake Griffin.

“It was way more nervewracking,” said Griffin about his experience as the verdict was being announced. “You just never know how you’re going to feel until you’re in that moment. But hearing what we heard, just a lot of relief and hopefully this is the start of something really powerful. I just keep thinking about how powerful it was to see people from all over the world come together and take a stand for something. That’s huge.”

And Steve Nash.

“It’s a small gesture of justice and possibly hope for the future.” he said, adding that it could be a sign social justice movements across the nation, including in the NBA, may be making an impact.

In addition to Nash and the players, Joe Tsai and Clara Wu Tsai offered their thoughts in a statement following the game.

Later, Joe Tsai tweeted out an image of the message posted on the Barclays Center oculus.

Later still, hundreds of protesters gathered on the arena entrance plaza which once again, as it was after the murder of George Floyd, served as Brooklyn’s unofficial and ad hoc town square. Among other things, the crowd chanted, “Defund the Police.”

Mike James signing close?

Marc Stein of the Times reports that the team is still pushing on the Mike James signing...

James, seen as the most dynamic guard in Europe, was averaging 19.3 points a year in the Euroleague before he was suspended by CSKA Moscow following an altercation with the Russian team’s head coach.

Zion 1 unveiled

It was a momentous night for Zion Williamson. He played in his first signature shoe, the Jordan Zion 1.

As Sponge Bob might say...

Per Will Hanley.

What’s next

The Nets will be back in action Wednesday when the team travels to Tampa to face the Toronto Raptors in the second game of a back-to-back. The game is scheduled to tip at 7:00 PM ET.

For a different perspective, check out The Bird Rights - our sister site covering the New Orleans Pelicans.