Before the start of Tuesday’s game, Ty Lue told the media that any time contending teams go up against each other, they want to prove their greatness. The Clippers certainly looked the part early, but Kyrie Irving and the Nets were the ones who asserted themselves late.
In one of the most fun games of the season, the Clippers couldn’t hang on late against Brooklyn despite an early 12-point lead, falling to the Nets 122-120.
Despite the result, Kawhi Leonard made his claim as the best player on the court. In the first quarter, he maked all four of shots and free throws and added four assists, two rebounds, and two blocks. He abused Brooklyn’s switching defense by screening Kevin Durant off of him with regularity, and then attacking a smaller or slower defender. He also made all the right reads out of doubles, hitting open shooters on the perimeter to get his teammates going.
But the Clippers didn’t close the quarter well. The Nets finished the period with a thunderous DeAndre Jordan slam and carried that momentum into the second. Fellow former Clipper Landry Shamet found Joe Harris for an open three with a hit-ahead pass to start the proceedings — the mistake immediately after the stoppage especially irked Lue — and Jordan finished two more lobs to pull Brooklyn within two points.
The Clippers found their rhythm again shortly afterwards. Nicolas Batum unclogged the halfcourt offense with his cutting, and Reggie Jackson knocked down a couple of catch-and-shoot threes. After a Serge Ibaka block on Kyrie Irving, Jackson found Marcus Morris Sr. in the corner in transition to put the Clippers up 56-45. It seemed they had once again solved the Nets defense.
And then, like clockwork, the individual brilliance of Irving got Brooklyn back into things, and his layup with eight seconds left in the half made it a one-point game heading into intermission. Irving even gave the Nets their first lead of the game with a baseline jumper to start the third quarter.
The third quarter was an ode to brilliant shotmaking from all five superstars, and that appeared to favor Brooklyn, who built a six-point lead halfway through the period. A well-timed Nicolas Batum 4-point play stemmed the tide for the Clippers, and the teams essentially traded baskets the rest of the period, LA emerging with a 2-point advantage thanks to a Paul George jumper.
The Clippers used a 7-0 run early in the fourth to take the largest lead of the fourth quarter at 102-97 after a George 3-point play. Unfortunately, that stretch was followed by a 13-0 burst from the Nets, featuring eight points from Irving. No matter what type of individual defense the Clippers played, the Nets simply overwhelmed them with their offensive talent. Some of the shots from Irving were absurd.
The Clippers made a game of it late, but they were always playing from behind. Brooklyn played the foul game instead of ever giving the Clippers a chance to tie, and the Nets escaped with a win.
Pretty fun night of basketball. Let’s see if the Clippers can get a win tomorrow.