The Brooklyn Nets started slow Thursday night against the Orlando Magic but quickly picked things up. A 10-point deficit with about a minute left in the first quarter was erased by a second quarter that saw the Nets outscore the Magic by 22. And after a lopsided fourth quarter, Brooklyn cruised to a 129-92 win, its eighth straight victory.
As the Nets stormed all the way back, there was excitement and elation at Barclays Center — but also, for one brief moment, a hint of disappointment.
Kyrie Irving’s Lay-in Dunk
With just under 11 minutes to go in the third quarter, Nets star Kyrie Irving stole the ball from an unsuspecting Nikola Vucevic. Irving dribbled down the court and had a clear path to the basket. As he went up high for the bucket, his Nets teammates on the nearby bench jumped in unison. The only problem: Irving didn’t slam the ball in for a dunk. Instead, his bucket was more of a two-handed running layup.
“He got up there,” YES Network play-by-play commentator Ian Eagle said, “and then thought about it and he put it down cleanly.”
On the Nets bench, there was a playful disappointment. The Magic took a timeout at that point, and Irving was all smiles as his teammates gave him high-fives.
The bucket marked Brooklyn’s 20th point off of turnovers on the night, another indicator that the team’s defense is beginning to play better.
Irving finished with a game-high 27 points on 11-of-18 shooting from the field. He added nine assists and five rebounds.
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Nic Claxton Delivers Thunderous Dunk
Later in the game, in a bit of a role reversal, it was Irving who was reacting dramatically on the Nets bench to a teammate’s dunk attempt.
The difference was Nic Claxton landed his attempt — big time.
Irving was the first to leap from his seat on the bench in celebration before shouting toward his teammate.
Claxton, meanwhile, was incredibly impactful in his 15 minutes off the bench, scoring 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting to go with a career-high four steals, three rebounds and two blocks.
Claxton, the 6-foot-11 center whom the Nets selected with the first pick of the second round in the 2019 NBA Draft, was available to play in a game for the first time this season on February 21. He underwent arthroscopic labrum repair surgery on his left shoulder in June.
After Thursday’s game, Irving referred to Claxton as “the young alchemist.”
“He’s just learning from all of us day by day,” Irving said, via SNY. “He’s been working extremely hard to get back on the floor. He wants to earn his playing time and he wants to go out there and do what he can to provide whatever’s needed. And that’s Nic.
“He’s a great young man and we want to continue to develop him as a person first. And then when he’s out there with us on the floor, he’s around high-IQ basketball players and this is the best of the best, so we just want to pass on the knowledge so he can carry it on when it’s his time, however many years from now. But with us here, it’s part of our purpose to continue to help him. He’s doing a great job of just receiving that information and applying it.”