NEW YORK — With a once double digit lead whittled down to just one in the final quarter of the Nets‘ Monday night game against the Heat, Kyrie Irving took over. He splashed in clutch three points, driving layups and made key free throws to help lift the Nets to a 128-124 win over Miami.
Down the stretch, Irving said his mentality was: “it’s winning time.
“I’ve always said that throughout my career,” Irving said. “When it gets down to that point, obviously you just want to buckle down on the defensive end, get stops and I felt like we did that.”
The win snapped a two-game losing streak for The Nets, who dropped two games in Cleveland earlier this week. Irving’s 18 4th quarter points were the most he’s scored in a final quarter since joining Brooklyn.
“We had two losses where we had to learn a lot very quickly,” Irving said. “And we just moved on to the next night and I feel like we gave the effort in spurts and obviously we want to have more consistency in that – and that’ll take time. I’m happy with the effort tonight.”
Bam Adebayo finished with a career-high 41 points, five rebounds and nine assists.
“It was about time Bam had 40 in terms of getting a lot of those moves that he’s been working on in the off season,” Irving said. “Just watching him grow since high school, be able to take over at this point for kind of an undermanned Miami team, it’s good to see.”
The Nets came into Friday’s game with the goal of improving defensively. While they couldn’t fully contain Adebayo, there were glimmers of improvement.
After being outrebounded 50-29 on Friday night, the Nets buckled down in defensive rebounding against the Heat. Brooklyn had an 81.3 percent defensive rebound percentage on Saturday – their third highest in a game this season – compared to just 58.1 percent on Friday night.
Nets coach Steve Nash continued to experiment with line ups involving the team’s three All Stars. Harden played 11 minutes with both Durant and Irving on the bench. And while Harden’s 12 points were his fewest since January of 2020, his five straight games with double-digit assists have already tied for the fourth longest such streak in Nets history.
“It feels good not to have to score so much to give ourselves a chance to win a game,” Harden said. “I can go out there and just be a playmaker and shoot my shot when it’s available and still get guys involved – and still have a chance to win the game.”
He added: “That’s a change. But, for me just being the player that I am. Impacting the game in other ways other than scoring.”
After the game, Irving and Adebayo attempted to swap jerseys on the court, before a Miami security guard ushered Adebayo away. This season, swapping jerseys on the court is a violation of the NBA’s coronavirus health and safety rules.
“I just want to follow NBA protocol,” Irving said, smiling, before adding: “I have the jersey by the way.”