TORONTO — Jacque Vaughn has asked — scratch that, demanded — the Nets to fight for each other. Friday night, they got back up off the mat and fought their way to a stunning come-from-behind 119-116 victory over the Raptors.
It was Kyrie Irving — who last season couldn’t play in Canada due to COVID-19 vaccine restrictions — that won it with a 27-footer at the buzzer. He had a team-high 32 points, and Kevin Durant added 28 for the Nets, who have won nine of 10.
It completed a season sweep of the Raptors, and it also was the latest proof that this Nets team actually has a jaw. They rallied from 18 points down to grind out a tough, gritty win and disappoint the sellout crowd of 19,800 at Scotiabank Arena.
The Nets (18-12) came into Friday fourth in the Eastern Conference, a game behind third-place Cleveland and one clear of fifth-seeded Philadelphia, both of which were in action Friday.
Toronto (13-16) has dropped four straight.
The score was knotted at 105-all after Fred VanVleet (game-high 39 points) scored with 3:06 to play. But back-to-back dunks from Ben Simmons and Durant put the Nets ahead.
The teams went back and forth, with VanVleet, Irving and Toronto’s Scottie Barnes each taking turns giving their team the lead. But it was an unlikely hero for the Nets that came through with the biggest shot of the night.
Irving drove and drew in three defenders, kicking out to ex-Raptor Yuta Watanabe in the corner. He drilled a clutch 3-pointer to put the Nets up, 116-114, with 14.1 seconds left.
Barnes tied it at the free throw line with eight seconds left. Irving then untied it with his 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Nets looked good in the fourth quarter with Simmons at small-ball center and length at every position around Irving. But it was the third quarter that put the Nets in position to win it.
Trailing 62-44 with 1:17 left in the first half after a Pascal Siakam 3-pointer, the Nets closed the half with eight unanswered points, which grew to a 14-0 spurt that spanned intermission.
It was the start of an extended 35-14 run that changed the game. The Nets shot 10 of 13, with Durant having seven points on 3 of 5 from the floor.
The Nets harassed Toronto into 5-for-18 shooting — including 0-for-6 from deep.
Durant gave the Nets the lead, and Watanabe’s finger roll on a three-on-two fast break made it 79-76 with just over three minutes left in the third.
The fourth was drama filled, no play more dramatic than Irving’s 3-pointer.
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