The Nets’ "Big Three" of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving totaled 96 points and scored 42 of their last 57 points against the Cavaliers Wednesday night in Cleveland. But it wasn’t enough. The Cavs’ Collin Sexton scored the first 15 points in the second overtime for his team on the way to a 147-135 victory that snapped the Nets’ three-game winning streak.
"He made shots,’" Harden said of Sexton. "We started switching a little bit more, and he made some tough shots over contested hands. He made a tough shot over Ky to force the second overtime. This is a make or miss league, so if guys are going to be hitting shots like that, it’s going to be tough for anybody. Overall, it was a pretty damn good game for us, and we’ll watch some film and continue to get better."
Early in the fourth quarter, the Cavs built a 13-point lead, and after back-to-back threes by former Net Taurean Prince, they had a 104-92 lead with 7:16 left to play. From there, the Nets put together a 13-3 run that included threes from the "Big Three" of Durant, Harden and Irving to cut the deficit to 107-105 with 4:13 to go.
When Irving tipped in a miss by Joe Harris, the game was tied at 113 with 1:08 left to play. Harden later missed a potential go-ahead three, and Sexton committed a turnover that led to a foul call against him on Irving at the other end with 1.5 seconds left. The Cavs challenged the call and won, and the game went to overtime.
Irving hit a three to open the overtime and give the Nets their first lead since early in the third quarter. But Larry Nance tied it at 120 when he hit a left-wing three with 46.8 seconds left in OT. Nets veteran Jeff Green responded with a three at the 28.2-second mark, and Cedi Osman scored on a layup with 24.9 left to make it a one-point game. Harden hit two foul shots for a 125-122 lead with 18.3 seconds left, but Sexton's three with 1.2 seconds left tied the game at 127 and sent it to the second overtime.
"We had a foul to give and we fouled him right before with a few seconds to go," Durant said. "In that situation, you don’t want to foul the shooter. But he got hot."
Durant led the Nets (9-7) with 38 points and added 12 rebounds and eight assists, Irving totaled 37 points, and Harden had a triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists, but the bench had only 10 points. Sexton topped the Cavs (7-7) with 42 points and Osman had 25. Prince (17 points) and another former Net, Jarrett Allen (12 points, 11 rebounds), played major roles for the Cavaliers.
This game marked the Cavaliers debut for Allen and Prince, who were traded to them as part of the four-team deal that brought Harden to the Nets.
In their first game together with the "Big Three," the Nets had a spate of early turnovers but balanced that with 10-for-10 shooting to open the game and built a 23-15 lead that included seven points from Irving in his first game back after missing seven straight, five for personal reasons and two because he was regaining condition.
"I am grateful," Irving said about his return. "To be playing with Kevin Durant and James Harden, you know, just those names alone right now, it’s just like we’re having some fun. But it’s not just about us.
"We’ll have good nights, we’ll have great nights, but it’s how we galvanize as a group together. It’s how we sacrifice and compromise for the greater good. That remains to be seen."