DENVER – – Brooklyn coach Steve Nash doesn’t mind his players feeling a little uncomfortable right now. Or even see them suffer a little.
That can only help later, said the Brooklyn coach. The Nets were also struggling to lose 21 points in Denver at one point before flipping a switch and coming back strong.
Kevin Durant scored 33 points, including five free throws in the final 21 seconds, and Kyrie Irving added 31 as the Nets broke a four-game skid by beating the Nuggets shorthanded 125-119 on Saturday night.
“I’m glad we’re uncomfortable right now. I am happy for us to struggle, to suffer, ”Nash said. These experiences when we are on the mat are good for us. Our guys responded tonight.
The Nets moved half a game to Milwaukee for the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Brooklyn remained three games behind leading East Philadelphia.
The difference between the first half (outscored 71-56) and the second (outperforming Denver 69-48) was pretty straightforward for Durant: “We’re on the same page in the second half and played our hardest part.
After trailing by no less than 21 points in the first half, the Nets took the lead in earnest at 111-110 on a 3-point by Joe Harris with 6:12 to go. It was their first lead for 35 seconds in the game.
But it was far from easy on the stretch. Nikola Jokic was fortunate enough to put the Nuggets ahead with 23.9 seconds remaining, only to see his turnaround missed. Durant made two free throws to take him to 122-119.
Durant suffered a foul shortly after Jokic missed a shot on the other end. The Nuggets big man was upset by the no-call and lost his temper, picking up a technique with 9.1 seconds left. Durant made three free throws to secure the victory.
Blake Griffin had 16 of his 20 points in a pivotal third quarter to help the Nets get back into the game.
Jokic brushed off his apparent irritation with officials, simply saying, “No comment. Next question.”
Instead, he praised the Nets.
“They are a talented team,” said Jokic, who finished with 29 points, seven tables and six assists.
Michael Porter Jr. added 28 points, including six 3-pointers, as the Nuggets lost their seven-game home streak. It was their last regular season game this season at Ball Arena, where the Nuggets finished 25-11.
Facundo Campazzo had 19 points and the little used Markus Howard had 13 points, the career best, as the Nuggets turned to unconventional rosters after playing the night before in Utah.
Aaron Gordon was a late scratch due to the strain in his right calf, joining a growing roster of saggy Nuggets. The injury report now includes Jamal Murray (ACL), Zeke Nnaji (left ankle sprain), Monte Morris (hamstrings), Will Barton (hamstrings) and PJ Dozier (right adductor strain). Paul Millsap also didn’t play just to give him a night off.
In the second quarter, Nuggets coach Michael Malone turned to the little-used training of Vlatko Cancar, Bol Bol, Howard, Shaquille Harrison and JaVale McGee.
“The silver lining, Markus Howard, Vlatko, Bol, they had the chance to play real game minutes,” said Malone.
Nets: G James Harden was out for a 17th straight game with right hamstring strain. … Durant had 11 boards. … The Nuggets had a 27-1 second chance points advantage.
Nuggets: Porter scored Denver’s first 11 points. … It was the biggest missed lead in a loss this season for Denver. The biggest precedent was 20 in Washington on February 17.
NASH ON JOKIC
“Obviously, I think Jokic is the MVP this year,” Nash said. “He’s kind of gone from end to end at this high level, and making his teammates better, makes it all happen. They lose Jamal Murray and they haven’t really skipped a beat. It shows how good he is.
Malone sees similarities between Durant and Porter.
“Very similar body types, amazing height and length,” said Malone. “Obviously, all of Kevin Durant’s work is just amazing; he is one of the five best players in the world. “
Durant has a lot of respect for Porter.
“He is a unique player who will carve his own way in the league,” Durant said.
Nets: Complete a five-game trip Tuesday in Chicago.
Nuggets: In Charlotte on Tuesday as Denver concludes the season with four straight road games.