CLEVELAND – Two quarterfinal separations, a grueling double overtime and a shot by Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton were too much to overcome even for the Brooklyn Nets’ big three.
Wednesday – in the first game Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving played together and it was Irving’s first game in more than two weeks – the Nets lost to the Cavaliers 147-135.
Durant scored 38 points and Irving added 37. Harden finished the game with 21 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.
It only seemed fair, Durant talked about playing with Harden and Irving. It was perfect, like we were made for each other. I think it would be fun to make a team. It was a tough start, especially for us, it was a top-down game.
A victory, Mr. Durant acknowledged, would have been more ideal.
Brooklyn’s problems weren’t offensive, but the Nets had some visible oddities that needed to be ironed out defensively. They had no answer for Sexton in overtime as the third-year goaltender scored 20 points in a row for Cleveland, who finished with 42 points, the highest score of his career.
Earlier in the night, the Cavaliers had the worst offensive chances in the NBA. But against Brooklyn, Cleveland shot over 51% from the field, including 50% from 3-point range. The Knights finished the game with a record of 23-8.
Brooklyn’s fragmented play began early. After leading the Cavaliers in net in double figures in the first quarter, they went on a 17-0 run in the second quarter and took a nine-point lead.
Harden didn’t score his first points until the final minute of the first half when Larry Nance Jr. knocked him down and Harden hit two free throws.
Prior to Wednesday’s game at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, Harden scored a first-half goal in 325 consecutive games, ESPN Stats & Information reports. In the last ten seasons, the only players to have such longevity have been LeBron James and Durant.
We’ve had breakdowns all over the place, Nets coach Steve Nash said. So we have a lot of work to do. We know that. We know we have a very aggressive team right now, so we have to find ways to defend, to connect, to be on the same page.
Brooklyn’s defensive effort wasted blood in the second half. In the third quarter alone, 13 of the Cavaliers’ 22 shot attempts are uncontested. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Cleveland scored 11 of 13 for these open looks.
Harden and Durant played more than 50 minutes. Harden ended his career with a record of 50 minutes and 30 seconds. Irving – who Nash said was hoping to play less than 40 minutes – finished with a career record of 48 minutes and 22 seconds.
Landry Shamet, who was brought in to help Brooklyn, did not play.
I think there was fatigue in the second revision, Nash said. It seems we have made some bad decisions now. But if they don’t make it to 3 at the end of the first overtime, it seems worth it. Sometimes you have to roll the dice.
Irving had his first meeting since Wednesday the 5th. January. He has missed the Nets’ last seven games – five for personal reasons and two for conditioning. While he was absent for personal reasons, the union fined Irving for health and safety violations for attending what appeared to be a family birthday party. He also lost more than $800,000 in salary for the two games he missed in quarantine.
I always play a game I love and I’m grateful for that, Irving said after Wednesday’s game. I never take it for granted. Then also play with Kevin Durant, James Harden, just those names, just for fun.
The Nets play Cleveland again on Friday.