Fool me once, shame on you. But fool me twice? The Nets didn’t find out how that age-old adage ends.
At least not this time.
The Nets snapped a four-game losing streak with a 116-109 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Halloween evening. It was a much needed, get-right win after the Pacers thoroughly embarrassed the Nets in Saturday’s nine-point loss.
“It was very important for us to get a response,” head coach Steve Nash said. “The win was nice. I care much more about our process and I thought the process was great. The spirit was great, we were connected, we played hard. We were able to do the extra things, the little things, and especially at the end. We had tired players at the end. Guys played a lot of minutes and playing a team that flies around — they play with pace, they fly around. They stuck with it. They stuck with the task. They played for each other, rebounded the ball better, did so many things better, so we were proud of the group’s effort.”
And it was a win that was met with a standing ovation from a Barclays Center crowd desperate for a quality performance from what has the potential to be a quality late-season team if they can put it all together.
The victory — Brooklyn’s second of the season against five early losses — didn’t come without drama: The Nets ran up a 24-point first-half lead that evaporated by the fourth quarter. It became a two possession game down the stretch after the Pacers knocked down a flurry of threes.
In fact, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving each missed critical threes down the stretch, to which the Pacers responded with baskets that kept the game close. In the end, Irving iced the game with a floater and Durant put it out of reach with a pair of free throws.
Durant finished with 36 points on 13-of-22 shooting from the field to go with nine rebounds and seven assists. As part of his night, he surpassed Vince Carter for 19th place on the NBA’s all-time leading scoring list. Next up for Durant is Kevin Garnett. Garnett’s spot is at risk with less than 300 points of separation from Durant, who is averaging more than 32 points per game to start the season.
“Wins are always incredible. It’s tough to win in this league,” Durant said. “It’s tough to be successful in this league, so it’s easy to take this stuff for granted because we play so many games and we put so much high expectation on ourselves as a team and as individuals, but when you sit back and think about it, it does feel good to get a W. It feels good going home and it feels good going to sleep and going into the next game so you can look forward to tomorrow.”
Indiana shot 0-of-12 from downtown in the first period, then proceeded to light it up from deep for the rest of the night. It looked like more of the same from a Pacers team two nights removed from tying the Nets’ all-time record for opponent threes made.
Starting center Nic Claxton had 19 points, nine rebounds, four assists and four blocks.
“I think we started out really the way we started the game,” Claxton said. “We started out from the jump, made them take tough shots and we weathered the storm when they went on their runs. They were making some tough shots. Everything wasn’t easy. There was a lot of contested shots around the rim, as opposed to the last game where they had a lot of open looks.”
Irving finished with 28 points on 9-of-19 shooting from the field.
A group of fans were seen courtside wearing shirts that said “Fight Antisemitism” during the game on Monday night. The fans sat in the Barclays Center with the shirts two days after Irving was questioned about a tweet that shared a documentary filled with antisemitic messages.
Sharpshooter Joe Harris started in place of Ben Simmons (left knee soreness) and finished with seven points and three steals to go with some scrappy individual defense.
“He just has a sore knee. That’s all I know really,” Nash said of Simmons. “Tomorrow, we’ll have to monitor and see how he is but tonight he’s out and we’ll see how the knee is tomorrow and if he’s able to go.”
The Pacers got 30 from guard Chris Duarte and 22 from wing Buddy Hield but only shot 11-of-39 from downtown.
And now the Nets are off to the races, shaking the proverbial monkey off their back with a victory against an opponent they were supposed to beat. They face a tough task in the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday in the second game of a back-to-back, but the hope is Simmons and maybe even Seth Curry (ankle surgery maintenance) will return to the rotation. Curry also missed Monday’s matchup.