In one of their most desperate nights of the season, the Nets came through with one of their most stirring comebacks of the year. They stormed back to a 125-119 victory over the Nuggets before 4,044 at Denver’s Ball Arena in a game they had to have.
The Nets snapped a season-high four-game losing skid. And they rallied from a 21-point hole to do it, the second-biggest deficit they’ve overcome this season.
Durant had a game-high 33 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Kyrie Irving had 31 points, while Blake Griffin added 20 points while having to deal with MVP favorite Nikola Jokic.
The Nets trailed by 21, and were still down 108-100 in the fourth quarter. But that’s when they used a 13-2 run to go ahead by three, and never trailed again.
Jokic (29 points) had two great looks at potential go-ahead baskets on consecutive possessions, but Joe Harris and then Durant helped force him into a pair of huge misses. Durant sank a pair at the line on the other end with 21 seconds left to put Brooklyn up 122-119.
Jeff Green tied up Jokic to force a jump ball. And even after Denver got the tip, Nic Claxton harassed the MVP favorite into another miss with 10.9 seconds left. He got hit with a technical for arguing the no-call, and Durant hit three straight at the line to ice it.
“Like I keep saying, we don’t want to have losing streaks but this can afford us a lot,” coach Steve Nash said beforehand. “If we stole a couple of these games along the way, maybe we would swept some things under the rug. So it’s a great opportunity one for us to face some adversity and overcome it but it’s also a highlight, allows us to look at some things that we need to improve on before the playoffs arrive.
“So this gives us an opportunity to double down and work on our process and we’ll try to get better and prepare ourselves for the playoffs. We faced a murderer’s row of talent and some really good teams that all need wins and their playoff standing and so I think we can respond from this and look back at this that has afforded us a lot.”
Despite the Nets being desperate — and facing a Denver team that was on the tail end of a back-to-back, and missing injured Jamal Murray — they dug themselves into a 13-5 hole right out of the gate. It only got deeper.
The Nets trailed 37-24 after a first quarter that saw them surrender 60.9 percent shooting, and 17 of Michael Porter Jr.’s 28 points.
Their defense in abysmal disarray and picked apart by the Nuggets’ ball movement, the Nets fell behind 71-50 with 1:22 left in the half, and went in the locker room down 71-56.
But the Nets stormed out of the locker room on an 18-6 run. They hit their first seven shots, the last a Durant pull-up 3 to cut the lead to 77-74 with 8:05 left in the third. And once they smelled blood, they were merciless.
The Nuggets sandwiched a pair of 3-pointers around a Durant miss, to extend the lead back to 83-74. But the Nets shot 16 of 19 in the third and got 16 points from Griffin, to be within striking distance, at 104-97 going into the fourth.
It was 108-100 before the Nets mounted another rally.
Durant’s 3-pointer pulled them even at 108 apiece. And Harris’ corner 3 put them ahead 111-110, their first lead since 3-0.
And uncontested Durant dunk capped a 13-2 run, and put the Nets up by three.
Irving’s free throw made it 116-112 with 3:51 to play. A JaMychal Green and-one cut it to a point, but Durant earned and sank a pair of free throws to pad it back to three with 1:42 left.
They ended up holding Denver to 15 points in the fourth quarter to win.