After blowing a late fourth-quarter lead in Miami on Sunday, the Nets managed to hold on for a much-needed win in New Orleans on Tuesday night.
Although shorthanded, the Nets pulled out a 134-129 nail-biter at Smoothie King Center.
Just two days earlier, the Heat ended the game on an 8-0 run to stun the Nets. They looked wobbly again Tuesday, but this time they showed the chin to take the Pelicans’ best punch and keep standing.
Kyrie Irving had a team-high 32 points and eight assists for the Nets, who were playing with just nine men. They essentially played with just eight — and with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Nic Claxton all out — but did just enough.
Joe Harris scored 24 points and Landry Shamet added 18 and a career-high eight assists. And Irving, who missed his final three looks in the Sunday heartbreaker in Miami, helped steady the Nets (39-19) down the stretch.
After their 10-point lead was cut to 124-122, Irving’s 14-foot turnaround with 52.3 seconds to play gave them some breathing room. After the Pelicans’ Steven Adams inexplicably missed the second of two free throws on purpose with 44 seconds remaining, Irving got free for a baseline drive and layup that gave the Nets a five-point cushion.
That lead was sliced to 129-128 with 11.4 left on a pair of free throws by Brandon Ingram, but the Nets did enough to hold on.
Zion Williamson had 33 points on 14 of 19 shooting, and Ingram added 27 points for New Orleans (25-33). But the Nets’ depth was on display, including guard Bruce Brown who had 11 points, a team-high 11 boards and four steals.
“For sure. All those guys have to play. All those guys on the fringe of the rotation or just out of the rotation are going to have to play,” coach Steve Nash said. “We have nine guys available and a game [Wednesday] night. So we’ll see. Hopefully we come out of this game in one piece and move on to Tampa [on Wednesday] night and the Raptors.”
As is their custom, the Nets dug themselves an early hole.
After the Nets led 8-5 out of the gate, they allowed 16 unanswered points to the Pelicans. An Eric Bledsoe 3-pointer left the Nets behind 21-8 with 7:20 remaining in the first quarter.
Nash went to his bench, and almost immediately upon checking in, Brown ignited an 11-2 spurt. His steal led to a Jeff Green dunk that pulled the Nets within 23-19.
Still trailing 65-63 in the third, the Nets mounted a 12-0 run. Irving capped it by finding Harris for a 3 that padded their cushion to 75-65 with 7:30 left in the third quarter.
The Pelicans hit 10 straight shots to span the third and fourth periods, and the Nets briefly fell behind 95-93 on Naji Marshall’s 3-pointer to open the fourth. But the Nets got a 3 from Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and never trailed again.
Leading 114-107 with 5:42 to play, the Nets did surrender a 6-0 mini-run that cut their advantage to just one. But the Nets responded with six straight points themselves.
A Harris layup followed by an Irving steal off Williamson and a Harris finger roll pushed it back to five. And after forcing an Ingram miss, Irving’s 10-foot pull-up made it 120-113 with 4:06 left. The Nets never trailed after that.