Kyrie Irving scored 32 points as the Brooklyn Nets shrugged off the injury absence of Kevin Durant to down the New Orleans Pelicans 134-129 on Tuesday.
An impressive all-round offensive display helped Brooklyn to a win which saw them close to within half a game of the Philadelphia 76ers at the top of the Eastern Conference.
With Durant suffering from a thigh contusion and James Harden still missing with a hamstring strain, it was left to the Nets’ supporting cast to back up Irving.
Joe Harris finished with 24 points and Landry Shamet added 18 while Blake Griffin delivered 16 points from the bench. Bruce Brown added a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
“We needed everything tonight from everyone,” said Irving. “I feel like we found something good in the second half.”
Irving had taken responsibility on Sunday after the Nets’ scoring dried up down the stretch in an agonising 109-107 defeat to Miami.
But the 29-year-old led from the front in the fourth quarter on Tuesday, piling up 15 points in the final period to get Brooklyn over the line.
“We just made shots,” said Irving. “In the last three minutes against Miami we should (have) had two or three plays. Tonight we were just playing off each other really well and it worked in our favour.”
Nets coach Steve Nash had a simple explanation for Irving’s improved fourth quarter performance.
“The ball went in tonight and it didn’t go in last time,” Nash said. “At the end of the day he made some really difficult shots. You tip your hat to the star player that makes the shots.”
Nash meanwhile saluted the scoring effort from the depleted Nets roster in the absence of Durant and Harden.
“When you’re down a couple of superstars, some guys have to take more responsibility and more minutes. And if they don’t play well you can find yourself in a big hole. Tonight they played really well.”
Zion Williamson led the Pelicans scoring with 33 points while Brandon Ingram added 27. Lonzo Ball and Naji Marshall added 15 points apiece for New Orleans, who remain just outside playoff contention in the West on 25-33.
Elsewhere Tuesday, the New York Knicks bagged a seventh straight victory as R.J. Barrett scored 24 points in a comfortable 109-97 defeat of the Charlotte Hornets.
Derrick Rose and Immanuel Quickley each finished with 17 points while Julius Randle added 16 with 10 rebounds and seven assists to maintain the Knicks’ push for the playoffs.