Everything changes when Kyrie Irving plays like a superstar.
Irving exploded for a season-high 48 points in Brooklyn’s 117-106 win over the Utah Jazz on Friday. He is now the Nets all-time franchise leader in games with at least 45 points scored.
And it was a welcome sight given Irving’s offensive struggles since Durant left the rotation with an MCL sprain. The Nets’ losing streak in games without Kevin Durant (MCL) ends at four.
Irving finished with 30 points in Thursday night’s loss to the Phoenix Suns, but was 3-for-16 in the first three quarters. He shot 11-for-27 in Phoenix, 7-for-20 against the Oklahoma City Thunder and just 9-for-24 in Brooklyn’s first game without Durant, a loss to the Boston Celtics.
Center Nic Claxton continues his campaign for Most Improved Player of the Year.
Claxton posted his fourth straight game with at least 15 points, scoring 20 on the night. He also extended his streak of games with at least three blocks to 11 with four on Friday night.
Two of Claxton’s rejections came in the last two minutes. After Jordan Clarkson scored on Claxton at the rim, Claxton responded on the next possession with an emphatic rebound.
A minute later, he blocked Utah’s Lauri Markkanen on a broken Jazz offensive possession.
SIMMONS’ STRUGGLES WITH GOUTATION
Ben Simmons continued his trend of being aggressive on offense, but fell short on the scoreboard.
The Nets’ star forward finished with six points, nine rebounds and four assists. He shot 3 of 7 from the field and did not attempt any free throws.
Simmons has scored in double figures just once since the calendar year ended and is averaging 5.4 points per game for the month of January.
The Nets need Simmons to be more aggressive to get his shot while Durant is out with a knee injury.
THE HOMECOMING OF O’NEALE
Starting end Royce O’Neale played at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City for the first time since the Jazz traded him to the Nets for a first-round pick last summer.
Jazz fans gave O’Neale aand the franchise played a video tribute to the three and D wing who spent five seasons in Utah as a key component on several playoff teams.
And O’Neale responded by shooting the lights to start, hitting three of his first four shots from center before cooling off later in the night.
Hot hand Harris is back
Nets sharpshooter Joe Harris has strung together hot shooting games, a welcome sight for the embattled wing who has struggled to recover from double ankle surgery last season.
Harris shot 3-for-6 from downtown after shooting 4-for-4 for 3 against the Suns on Thursday.