Nets thriller against Warriors is a positive sign for future



Erik Drost | Wikimedia Commons

Dani Heba, Sports Editor

In an instant classic that came right down to the wire, the Brooklyn Nets were narrowly defeated by the Golden State Warriors 110-106 at the Chase Center on Jan. 29.

With 12.1 seconds on the clock, and  Warriors leading 107-103, the Nets went to a man who has some experience hitting clutch shots against the Warriors: Kyrie Irving. In an unbelievable play,

Irving hit a fadeaway three-point shot from the right elbow, reminiscent of his huge shot in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, to make it a one-point game with nine seconds left on the clock.

However, following a Warriors timeout, officials called a controversial away-from-the-play foul on Irving due to foot contact with Warriors All-Star Guard Klay Thompson when Thompson attempted to catch the ball off the inbound. Officials reviewed the play and upheld the call that gave Thompson one free throw, which he nailed, and then gave the Warriors the ball back. Thompson nailed two free throws, pushing the score to 110-106, and Gary Payton II stole the Nets’ inbound pass to seal the deal.

However controversial the call was, Irving didn’t seem too phased at the end of the game and accepted responsibility for his foul on Thompson.

“I saw my foot was in Klay’s way and he tripped and that’s going to be a foul any day of the week, any game,” Irving said in a post-game interview.

Irving has reason to remain calm. Despite the loss, the Nets showed an excellent display of effort on the court, especially with two of the team’s biggest stars, James Harden and Kevin Durant, not playing due to injury.

Irving led the way for the Nets with 32 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists, while Patty Mills, the team’s free agent sign from the San Antonio Spurs, also performed spectacularly with 24 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists while shooting 50% from beyond the arc.

Additionally, despite being down by 19 points in the third quarter, the Nets commanded a 20-4 run to make it a two-point game by the end of the quarter.

The defensive effort in the game shouldn’t be understated either. The Nets defense held the Splash Brothers, Stephen Curry and Thompson, the best shooting duo in NBA history, to a measly 12 points on a combined 4-23 shooting throughout the first three quarters.

Alas, those familiar with Warriors basketball knew that slump wouldn’t last to the fourth quarter, as the duo commanded a combined 23 points in the final quarter alone, on 6-9 field-goal shooting and 3-4 shooting from beyond the arc, along with some clutch shots to bury the game. Despite this, the Nets defense was able to contain them for most of the game and forced three Curry turnovers in the fourth quarter alone, which kept them close until the buzzer.

Nets fans have reason to be optimistic about their team. The defense, relatively mediocre all season, stepped up against one of the best offenses in the league against the Warriors. And without two of their best players, Irving stepped up to the plate, once again showing why he’s one of the best in the league. Mills stepped up and played efficiently once again this season, proving to be a major signing for the Nets during free agency.

While their sixth-seed record in the Eastern Conference may not look too pretty for a team with one of the highest expectations in the NBA, it’s important to note that the East is heavily contested right now; despite being the sixth seed, the Nets are only 2.5 games behind the firstseed Miami Heat.

Additionally, the Nets have been plagued by waves of injuries and confusion this season. Irving was only recently made available following the peak of omicron cases in the NBA, as the Nets franchise originally didn’t want him available only on a part-time basis. Irving is ineligible to play at Nets home games due to New York City’s vaccine mandate since he refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine. However, he can play at away games, as he did at Golden State.

With Durant, who was a front-runner for league MVP until his MCL injury, Harden out on a day-to-day basis with a hand injury and Lamarcus Aldridge leaving the Chase Center on crutches with what seems to be an ankle injury, Irving is left to carry the team in away games. During home games, the role players have the job of stepping up.

Once the team is fully healthy and the big three is playing, which has barely happened this season, fans should have no reason to worry. There’s simply too much talent on the team for them to bust, from the big three to the reserves.

So long as the Nets keep up the intensity on the offensive and defensive ends that they showed against the Warriors, they will remain a contender, and ultimately, a favorite to win the NBA Finals.