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Nets' Kevin Durant Told Jacque Vaughn to Let Kyrie Irving Take Game-Winner vs Raptors

Doric SamDecember 17, 2022

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 12: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets celebrates with Kevin Durant #7 after scoring against the Washington Wizards during the first half at Capital One Arena on December 12, 2022 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images)
Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving made his first career game-winning buzzer-beater in Friday's thrilling 119-116 victory over the Toronto Raptors, but the original plan wasn't for him to take the shot.

Nets star forward Kevin Durant revealed to reporters after the game that head coach Jacque Vaughn had drawn up a play for him during the team's final timeout, but he suggested that the ball should go to Irving.

"He was already cooking, so I didn't want to get in his way," Durant said. "We kept finding him late in the game. He made some big shots, and I was just like, 'Jacque, I think Ky should take this one."

The suggestion from Durant paid off, as Irving drilled a step-back three-pointer over Raptors guard Fred VanVleet to propel Brooklyn to its fifth straight win and ninth in the last 10 games. Durant explained that he knew Irving would get a good look at the basket "especially" because he was being guarded by VanVleet.

"I'm not saying he's a bad defender, but they're the same size," he said of the 6'2" Irving and the 6'0" VanVleet. "He didn't have a 6'9" [Scottie] Barnes or a 6'5" guy on him that had size, so I felt he could get whatever he want there, and I also felt like they wasn't going to run and double him either at the top of the key because he obviously could just beat that. So they let him play one-on-one, and it was a special, special shot."

Irving finished with a team-high 32 points on 13-of-22 shooting, his third 30-point performance in his last four games. The 30-year-old is now averaging 25.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists this season.

"It just comes with the trust that we're building here," Irving said of his game-winner. "Jacque had a play call that we were about to go execute, and me and K had some dialogue and we decided to run the play for me. A good matchup versus Fred. We just got the better of him that one time."

After some early-season tumult—most notably during Irving's suspension for promoting an antisemitic film and initially refusing to apologize—the Nets appear to have found the form necessary to be a contender in the Eastern Conference. Brooklyn will go for its sixth straight win Sunday against the Detroit Pistons (8-23).