PREVIEW: Brooklyn Nets’ star trio back for another try vs. Cavs

Jan 12, 2021; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets power forward Kevin Durant (7) reacts during the fourth quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets unveiled their star trio of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden this week, and they produced plenty of offense against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Nets did not anticipate their defense allowing the Cavs’ Collin Sexton to go on a major scoring binge in overtime.

The trio will be on the floor again Friday night, but this time the Nets hope their defense can contain Sexton when the teams reconvene in Cleveland.

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“We had breakdowns all over the place,” Nets coach Steve Nash said after his team allowed over 120 points for the fifth time.

Cleveland posted a wild 147-135 double-overtime win Wednesday by overcoming the combined 96 points by Brooklyn’s trio, who combined for 28 points in the fourth quarter when the Nets forced overtime on a tip-in by Irving.

Brooklyn’s trio was playing together for the first time since Irving missed Harden’s first two games due to personal reasons and health and safety protocols. Durant led the Nets with 38 points and 12 rebounds in 50 minutes, Irving scored 37 over 48 minutes in his first game since Jan. 5, and Harden posted his second triple-double with the Nets by getting 21 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds in 50 minutes.

“It felt right,” Durant said after scoring at least 26 points for a team-record 11th straight game. “Felt perfect, felt like we belong together. It felt like we belong together. It felt like just joining together is going to be fun.”

Related: If you’re a fan of the Nets, check out #WeGoHard rumors, rankings, and news here.

What did not feel right from Brooklyn’s perspective was trying to stop Sexton, who scored a career-high 42 points after missing the previous five games with a sprained left ankle. Sexton dominated the overtimes, hitting the game-tying 3-pointer over Irving with 1.2 seconds left in the first overtime, and scoring 15 more points in the second overtime.

“I definitely accepted the challenge,” Sexton said. “I knew it was not going to be easy because it’s Kyrie.”

Sexton’s domination beyond regulation continued his strong start to this third season since being drafted by Cleveland with the eighth pick in 2018 — a pick the Cavs obtained from Boston as part of the 2017 Irving trade. He averaged 16.7 points as a rookie and improved to 20.8 points last season.

This year, Sexton is averaging 27 points on 53.4-percent shooting on a team managing just 102.9 points per game (29th in the league after Wednesday’s games).

At one point Wednesday, Sexton scored 20 straight points in overtime and according to the Elias Sports Bureau, his 15 points in the second overtime were the most by a Cavalier in the last 20 years.

“I don’t know many teams that could put up 20 points in the five minutes, but Collin got hot,” Irving said. “I give the young fellow credit.”

“He was just on fire tonight,” Cleveland forward Cedi Osman said. “He was unconscious. He was out of his mind. He was making all shots. It was beautiful to watch.”

Besides Sexton’s strong start, Osman is also off to a quick start. He scored 25 points in Wednesday’s win and is averaging a career-best 13.9 points.

The Cavaliers will be seeking their third straight win after Sexton’s dynamic performance. They won their first three games and then dropped seven of the next nine before getting a 106-103 win over the New York Knicks last Friday.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Cavaliers, check out #Cavs rumors, rankings, and news here

–Field Level Media