Much better this time.
Brooklyn faced a shorthanded opponent on the road for the second-straight night following Tuesday’s embarrassing loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Toronto Raptors were without All-Stars Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, last year’s Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes, as well as Otto Porter Jr., Precious Achiuwa, and Dalano Banton.
After a slow first half, the Nets took care of business convincingly, winning 112-98 for the team’s ninth victory of the season. Brooklyn now sits at 9-10.
Despite a quiet first half, Kyrie Irving went absolutely nuclear in the second, putting up 29 points on 11-of-16 shooting and 5-of-8 from three. Of his total points, 26 came in the second half, the third-highest-scoring half he’s had as a Net.
Ben Simmons had yet another promising outing, putting up 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting and six assists. His defense was as good as it’s looked as Net, swarming Toronto’s ball-handlers—Gary Trent Jr. and Malachi Flynn—to pick off three steals and two blocks.
Kevin Durant, meanwhile, had a quiet game by his standards with 12 points but moved past Kevin Garnett’s 26,071 points for 18th on the all-time scoring leaderboard. Next up for Durant is John Havlicek with 26,395 points. And despite that low output, KD led the Nets with a +30 rating.
All five Brooklyn starters scored double-digit points. Nic Claxton recorded his sixth double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Royce O’Neale hit a season-best five 3-pointers for 15 points. Brooklyn also garnered 32 assists on 45 made field goals, the fourth-straight game the team has recorded 30+ assists.
Interior defense was a major strength for the Nets, especially in the second half, as Brooklyn—the league leader in rejections– recorded 11 total blocks to the Raptors’ two. They also limited outside shooting opportunities and held Toronto to 24.1% shooting on just 29 looks from deep. The Nets, meanwhile, couldn’t miss and shot 54.9% from the field and 44.7% from three.
Brooklyn’s frontcourt was impactful from the jump. Simmons continued his strong play with four early points and one steal and was a major reason the Nets recorded six early fast break points. Claxton was equally forceful, patrolling the paint with mastery en route to six points, three rebounds, and two blocks. Their Nets built an early 21-12 advantage before the six-minute mark.
Brooklyn maintained that advantage until Cam Thomas checked in at the end of the quarter. Thomas got on the board with four quick points and a assist but then gave up a corner three by helping from the strong side. Such is the yin and yang of relying on young players. Brooklyn finished ahead 38-26 to end the first.
Toronto started the second quarter on a 13-0 run as Gary Trent Jr. began to get it going. Meanwhile, offensive rebounding continued to be a problem for the Nets after the brutal night in Philadelphia, with the Raptors grabbing 10 early offensive rebounds through one-and-a-half quarters. As such, things were largely knotted up for the majority of the period as neither team could find any sort of rhythm.
Edmond Sumner checked in at the 5:34 mark in the second and quickly got on the board with a layup in transition while cutting from the weakside, and then he scored on a pick-six thanks to some great point-of-attack defense. This gave the Nets a seven-point lead. Unfortunately, Brooklyn proceeded to cough the ball up twice (Durant being one of the culprits for one of his five first-half turnovers), and Toronto evened things up. Despite Toronto shooting just 18% from three in the first half, the Raptors were down just 52-51 against Brooklyn after two periods.
Brooklyn finally got it going in the third quarter. Kyrie Irving broke his silence with a pull-up two, a three, and a layup on the fastbreak through contact. Behind the increased effort to start the second half, the Nets went on a 10-0 run.
The Nets continued to pour it on in the third. Kyrie was splashing shots left and right, and Ben Simmons wreaked havoc against Raptors’ ball-handlers to rip away two steals. Kevin Durant, meanwhile, turned up the intensity on defense and contested multiple shots at the rim for three blocks. Behind the efforts of their three stars, the Nets grew the lead to 91-76 to end the third.
Brooklyn continued to keep the defensive intensity high in the fourth quarter. Royce O’Neale ripped away two steals, and suddenly Brooklyn’s lead grew to 20. The Nets never looked back, cruising over the finish line with a 14-point advantage.
KD passes KG. With his 10th point at the beginning of the second half Kevin Durant (12 points) recorded his 26,072nd career point, moving past Kevin Garnett (26,071) into 18th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Next up: John Havlicek (26,395 points).
The Nets finished with 32 assists, the first time since March 1987 that they posted four straight games of 30 of more assists.
Brooklyn heads to Indiana for a game on Friday after splitting the season series 1-1 earlier in the season. Coverage begins on YES Network at 8 PM EST.
For a different perspective of tonight’s game, head to Raptors HQ, our Raptors sister site.