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Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving’s 57 points help Nets hang on vs. Raptors, 109-105

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Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The Brooklyn Nets officially have a win in the standings.

Behind Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant’s combined 57 points, the Brooklyn Nets secured a wire-to-wire victory over the Toronto Raptors. The Nets now sit 1-1 on the season.

Irving was the star of the show, scoring 30 points on 11-of-24 shooting along with 7 assists. His heroics down the stretch on a barrage of jumpers carried Brooklyn across the finish line.

“Kai was incredible down the stretch making some big plays for us,” said Steve Nash. “We come to expect that type of shotmaking from him but it’s not easy, especially two games into the year. I’m sure he was really tired, you’re still trying to get your legs, and he made some incredible plays.”

Kevin Durant had a quiet game by his standards despite the 27 points. He went just 8-of-18 from the field with four total rebounds, though he did pitch in with six assists.

Outside of the 7/11 duo, Nic Claxton put together a scintillating 19-point, 11-rebound performance. His finishing through contact and ability to put the ball on the floor continues to be a major plus for Brooklyn in his fourth NBA season.

“Yeah, I mean he had all of that stuff when he got here,” said Kevin Durant about Claxton’s start to the season and refined skills. “It’s just being more confident and using it. Coach trusts him. His teammates trust him so he can go out there and do his thing. Sometimes you don’t want to showcase all your skills early on because you don’t know how they fit towards the team. He’s comfortable now and we need him to be more and more aggressive.

Then there was the dagger. A Royce O’Neale three to put the game away with 14.3 seconds left. More on that later.

Pascal Siakam led the way for Toronto with a 37-point, 11-assist, 13-rebound triple-double, as all five of Toronto’s starters scored in double figures.

“Triple-double is probably gonna be happening most nights,” said Kyrie Irving about the Raptors star. “I don’t wanna say he’s gonna be averaging a triple-double, but I think he has the capability of being a triple-double guy of just how many pieces they have and how well they play through him.”

Brooklyn got off to a much better start behind Ben Simmons, who attacked early. Ben connected on a skyhook over his left shoulder, blocked OG Anonuby at the rim, and then zipped a pass to O’Neale under the basket out of an ATO. Later, he splashed a two-handed jumper from eight feet out (with his right hand!).

The always plucky Raptors punched back behind their star, Pascal Siakam, who roasted the Nets with a medley of spin moves to the tune of six points, along with some added scoring from Gary Trent Jr., a sparkplug scorer always capable of catching fire, who tacked on nine points of his own. Behind Simmons and Kyrie Irving, who had 5 points of his own, the Nets finished the first quarter up 28-24.

The Raptors closed the gap in the second quarter behind Siakam, who started heating up from the midrange and splashed a pair of jumpers over Simmons. By the 5:22 mark of the second, Siakam was already up to a game-high 18 points. Speaking of Simmons, he continued to do good things for the Nets by getting into his playmaking bag, dropping off a fancy dump-off pass to Claxton and then whizzing a pass to Patty Mills in the corner as the short roller after screening for Kevin Durant. Durant, meanwhile, finally got it going after a slow start to get to 11 first-half points, and his Nets finished down just 49 to the Raptors’ 52 after two quarters.

Brooklyn started off the third quarter on fire with back-to-back makes from Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant to take a 55-52 lead. The Nets also turned things up defensively forcing three turnovers in three minutes. Back-to-back catch-and-shoot three-pointers after an offensive rebound from Kyrie Irving and then later from a driving Ben Simmons grew Brooklyn’s lead to 64-56 with 7:33 to spare in the third.

Some defensive miscues caused the Nets to cough up the lead. In less than three minutes, the Raptors didn’t just claw back, they outright took a 68-64 lead. Behind a three-pointer from Siakam after a patient drive from Fred VanVleet, and then later a one-footed Dirk Nowitzki-esque midrange shot, the Raptors' lead grew to 10.

It was the Nets turn to punch back. Brooklyn forced a turnover, and Nic Claxton took the ball full court and finished with a suh-weet euro step over a defender. The next possession, some pitter-patter ball movement led to a Patty Mills three in what was easily Brooklyn’s best halfcourt possession of the game. Brooklyn finished the third down by a hair, 79-78.

The fourth quarter continued to be a back-and-forth affair. Kyrie Irving got it going after hitting a tough long-two over the outstretched arms of Anunoby, plus the foul, and then a transition three a few minutes later. After a flurry of crossovers, he nailed yet another three to bring the Nets lead up 98-88 with 6 minutes to spare.

But once again, defensive miscues hurt the Nets. The Nets allowed Fred VanVleet—the only player on the Raptors with any sort of rhythm after hitting a pair of threes earlier in the half—to get wide-open in transition for a three-pointer. Then, an offensive rebound from Pascal Siakam after a wild shot closed the gap to 100-97, Brooklyn’s advantage, with 2:45 to spare. A corner three-pointer from OG Anunoby tied the game at 100 apiece.

Fans were privy to a show in the final minute and a half. Kyrie Irving isolated and hit a ridiculous midrange shot over a tough contest. Toronto responded with a Dalano Banton layup. Then after a disjointed possession in which the Nets nearly turned the ball over, Kevin Durant bailed his team out with a straight-on 3-pointer. Fred VanVleet sent O’Neale dancing with a stepback midrange to shrink Brooklyn’s lead to one, but then Royce got his revenge by hitting what eventually would be a game-sealing three-pointer.

“It was a character win for our guys. We challenged them. We talked about raising our standards and how hard it is to win in this league,” Steve Nash succinctly said after the game.

The Film Room

Say it with us: An aggressive Ben Simmons is a good Ben Simmons.

After a poor outing in his Nets debut, Simmons made up for lost time with a much more promising follow-up. The key to Simmons’ showing? He put his head down and drove to the rim. Better yet, he actually looked at the rim.

Within three minutes, Simmons took a field goal, a good sign of times to come. But it wasn’t just any field goal. No, Simmons posted up OG Anunoby, one of the best wing defenders in the league, on the left block, faced-up, drove middle, and then let loose of an absolutely gorgeous skyhook from 9 feet out.

That aggressiveness continued throughout the first half. Later, he dropped in the aforementioned two-handed short-range jumper. He also made a concerted effort to drive all the way to the basket in semi-transition instead of picking up his dribble at the elbows or outward. Here, he blows by Raptors rookie Christian Koloko for the dump-off to Nic Claxton. Again, notice how much more aggressive Ben is about just putting his head down and getting to the rim without fear.

Of course, a solid Ben Simmons performance wouldn’t come without some two-way prowess, and Ben made an impact defensively as well. He guarded an array of Raptors players—OG Anunoby, Siakam, Fred VanVleet—and had this thunderous block in the first half.

Steve Nash called Simmons “the engine” before Brooklyn’s first game of the season. Games like this make it easy to see why. The Nets go where Ben Simmons takes them. Friday night, Nash said he was proud of his point guard’s progress.

“A step up for Ben. From the jump he was more aggressive. He got in the paint, every time he gets in the paint he causes problems,” Nash said. “ He’s starting to show the player he can be, and I still think he’s got a ways to go, so really proud of him. He shook off the first night, and I thought he was much more aggressive in an important game for us.”

Joe Harris returns

Joe Harris returned nearly a year after he went down with a sprained ankle on November 14, the underwent two surgeries in November and March. He played nearly 18 minutes, scoring three points on 1-of-3 shooting, 1-of-2 from deep. He had missed Wednesday’s game, as he had the last three preseason games, with a sore foot.

“Yeah, I am gonna play tonight. Yeah, I’m excited,” Harris said pre-game. “I wanted to try and play the first game, but just wasn’t quite where I was supposed to be. Performance, myself, needed just a little bit more time. But I feel good right now and I’m excited to play tonight.”

Post-game, his coach talked about how much the team, the organization, had missed the 6’6” sharpshooter.

“It’s been almost a year, and he’s gone through a really horrible time that, you know, you wouldn’t want to wish on any player, especially Joe with how hard he works and being in his prime and all that. So for me, it’s great to have him in the lineup, and we hope he plays well.”

But Nash noted, as he had about Ben Simmons, that Harris needs times, reps.

“It’s also just important for him to get out there and kind of feel it again, (maybe even make some mistakes, maybe) a lot of mistakes,” Nash said. “And that’s important, too, like you gotta go through that process. So just having him back is huge for, you know, our outlook going forward. And obviously, it gives us a little bit more depth.”

Seth Curry “needs a few more practices” before returning

Brooklyn’s floor spacing cavalry got the needed jolt of shooting acumen with Joe taking the floor on Friday, but there’s still more waiting in the wings. Seth Curry, who has yet to participate in 5-on-5 after getting offseason surgery on his left ankle, still appears to be a ways away from taking the floor with his teammates.

“He probably just needs a couple more practices,” said Nash about Curry. “So it’s progressing, feeling good about it. But still needs a couple more, I’d say. We can update you when he’s ready or needs anything more after that.”

Still, things are starting to look up for these Nets after the big victory.

Nash talks aftermath of the Nets chaotic summer

Toronto may not be Steve Nash’s hometown, but he is Canadian and always of interest to his countrymen. So, prior to the game Friday, Nash was asked by Michael Grange of Sportsnet Canada about surviving the Nets summer of discontent which included Kevin Durant’s ultimatum to Joe Tsai that he fire both Nash and GM Steve Nash. As he has in the past, Nash downplayed the chaos, the noise of the off-season:

“I think from the outside it can be such a hot issue and everyone can dramatize it. From the inside, this stuff happens all the time throughout the league. We kind of have short memories and then we get right into the next drama ... It was just we just needed to sit down at some point.”

“There’s no baggage or remnants every day at work if that makes sense. I’m sure from the outside people always wonder, ‘how?’, but that’s just what it’s like in the NBA,” Nash continued. “Maybe it’s hard to understand for someone who’s not in the building every day, but we’ve had a really great pre-season, we’ve laid the foundations, and we really need now to get that amount of time under our belts where hopefully it comes to life and hopefully it doesn’t take too long so we can get some joy on the way as well.”

As Sponge Bob might say...

What’s next

The Nets head off for their first road trip of the season, a multi-day stop that begins in Memphis against the Grizzlies. The tilt begins at 8:00 p.m. ET and can be watched on YES Network.

For a different perspective, head over to Raptors HQ, our sister site in Toronto.