Kyrie Irving’s buzzer-beater lifts Nets to comeback win over Raptors

TORONTO — Kyrie Irving has hit a litany of big shots, including one of the most memorable championship winners in history. But he’d never met an NBA buzzer-beater — until Friday, when he hit both the Horn and the Raptors.

Irving’s high-arc shot had reached its peak when the final horn sounded. And as it cut the net, it delivered a 119-116 win over Toronto.

After the Nets got off the mat to fight back 18 points down, Irving delivered the knockout punch. He took a couple of dribbles to the right, shook Fred VanVleet with a step back and shook the sold-out crowd of 19,800 at Scotiabank Arena with his 27-foot winner.

It gave the Nets (18-12) their fifth straight win of the season and ninth in their last 10 games. Oh, and it gave Irving a first he’ll appreciate.

“It just comes from the trust we’re building here,” Irving said. “Jaque [Vaughn] had called another piece that we were about to be executed. Me and [Kevin Durant] had some dialogue and we decided to play the piece for me. Good matchup against Fred and I easily beat him this one time.

Kyrie Irving hits a buzzer-beater to seal the Nets' victory.
Kyrie Irving hits a buzzer-beater to seal the Nets’ victory.
Toronto Star via Getty Images
Kyrie Irving is mobbed by his Nets teammates after his game-winning shot
Kyrie Irving is mobbed by his Nets teammates after his game-winning shot
Toronto Star via Getty Images
Kyrie Irving celebrates with Kevin Durant after his game win.
Kyrie Irving celebrates with Kevin Durant after his game win.
Getty Images

“Who knew I’d come to Toronto and meet my first game winner, buzzer beater, of my NBA career? So pray that there will be more in the future. But I’m glad we got this one.”

Irving accumulated 15 of his 32 team-best points in the fourth quarter. Durant finished the match at 28 and received the call for isolation but told Vaughn he was bowing to the incandescent Irving.

good call

“I just felt like playing the whole fourth, he was making big shots, he was shooting hard the whole fourth,” Durant said. “And he’s already cooking, so I don’t want to get in his way. So we kept finding him late in the game. He made some big shots.”

Durant knew the Raptors (13-16) would catch him but wouldn’t run a doubles team against Irving for fear he might come by. And he was confident Irving could beat VanVleet, the diminutive guard, who had a 39-game height.

He was right on both counts.

“He definitely has a peace of mind and poise that you need to have in this situation not to panic,” Vaughn gushed. “…And he has an innate ability to get into his place.”

“Just play for free. That’s just how he is: He’s a free spirit and he takes that approach on the pitch,” Durant said. “Never jolted, never feels accelerated. And we trust him. Once he got on his train, it was a wide open view. He’s a great all-time shooter so I had confidence as soon as he got up for the shot that went in. I’m sure everyone in Brooklyn and on the bench felt the same way.”

It was the Nets’ first buzzer-beater since March 21, 2017 (Brook Lopez vs. Detroit), and it gave them a 4-0 win of the season over the Raptors.

Nic Claxton added 15 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high six blocks. Yuta Watanabe had 17 off the bench in a 6-on-7 shooting against his former team.

After a 3-pointer from Pascal Siakam, 62-44 behind, with 1:17 in the first half, the Nets closed the half with eight unanswered points, leading to a 14-0 sprint that extended into the break .

Kevin Durant scores in the Nets' win over the Raptors.
Kevin Durant scores in the Nets’ win over the Raptors.
Getty Images

It was the beginning of a game-changing extended 35-14 run. The Nets shot 10-of-13 and held Toronto in a 5-for-18 shooting — including 0-for-6 from deep.

Durant put the Nets ahead, and Watanabe’s fast-break finger roll made it 79-76 with three minutes remaining in the third game.

The Nets shot 70 percent in the fourth behind Irving’s breakout. The last period saw two draws and four lead changes, with Irving’s 3-pointer being the last and most dramatic.

Irving had found Watanabe for a 3-pointer by 15 seconds for a 116-114 lead. Toronto’s Scottie Barnes (26 points) equalized, but then Irving broke the equalizer.

“I felt like when he took the shot, I knew it was going to go in,” Watanabe said. “I watched it from the corner. It looks perfect so I knew it was going to go in.”

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