The Brooklyn Nets remained the hottest team in the NBA, thanks to Kyrie Irving’s continued brilliance in the fourth quarter.
The much-maligned Nets star scored 15 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Nets past the Trae Young-less Atlanta Hawks, 108-107, Wednesday night for their 10th straight win, their longest winning streak since the 2005-06 season.
With Kevin Durant getting his customary rest at the start of the fourth quarter, Irving scored six straight points that helped the Nets transform a three-point lead into an 11-point cushion.
Irving’s final basket and assist that set up Nic Claxton’s alley-oop dunk gave the Nets a 104-99 breather with 2:46 left. Durant finished what Irving started with two straight baskets, and they teamed up to challenge Dejounte Murray’s game-winning attempt at the buzzer.
“For me specifically, when the fourth quarter hits, it’s winning time. That’s all I really know. When I’m out there with that group to start the fourth, I know K.D. is resting a little bit, so I just have to raise my aggression level and raise my efficiency up, and I’m grateful to have the trust of my teammates and coaching staff.”Kyrie Irving postgame via NBA.com
Irving’s fourth-quarter heroics Wednesday night is just the latest proof of his clutch genes that came to the fore when he hit one of the biggest shots in the NBA Finals history in 2016 to give Cleveland its first championship.
This season, Irving is tied with Milwaukee Bucks’ two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo as the scoring leader in the fourth quarter, averaging 9.1 points apiece, per statmuse. But Irving (18) has more fourth-quarter double-digit scoring than Antetokounmpo (11).
Since hitting his first career buzzer-beating game-winner against Toronto, Irving is averaging 9.1 points per game in the fourth quarter on an efficient 51.6 percent shooting.
Durant, who came two-assist shy of a triple-double (26 points, 18 rebounds, 8 assists), said it’s always fun watching his co-star take over in the fourth quarter.
“So many people love what Kyrie brings to the table. But in the fourth quarter, that’s really his time. So we sit back and let him go to work, and he made big shot after big shot. We just try to feed off his energy.”Kevin Durant postgame via NBA.com
The Nets are 14-3 since Irving returned from a team-imposed eight-game suspension due to an antisemitic scandal. Now drama free, the 23-12 Nets are back in the championship picture with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Boston Celtics (25-10).
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