East Notes: Nets, Kyrie Irving, Bulls, Zach LaVine, Pacers

Nets

Star guard Kyrie Irving buried the game-winner vs. the Raptors on Friday, and it came after star forward Kevin Durant suggested to coach Jacque Vaughn that the Nets get Irving the ball.

That happened during Brooklyn’s final timeout — when Durant deferred the play to Irving.

“He was already cooking, so I didn’t want to get in his way,” Durant said, via ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “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.'”

Irving was being defended by Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, and Durant suggested that was a mismatch.

“I’m not saying he’s a bad defender, but they’re the same size,” Durant said. “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.”

The Nets (17-12) have won eight of 10.

“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. Who would have thought I would have come into Toronto and hit my first game-winning buzzer-beater of my career? So pray that there’s more in the future, but I’m glad that we got this win.”

Bulls

Guard Zach LaVine said that only the Bulls can get themselves out of their own way and rise from their current tailspin.

“Obviously, these are tough times. We’re not trying to play like this,” he said, via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “But if you do, you gotta own it and try to play better.

“Play the right way. Play for each other and your coaches and teammates. I think that’s the only way you can do it. You can’t separate.”

Guard/forward DeMar DeRozan agreed.

“We just trying to figure out ways to pull each other up. When we’re all frustrated, it’s hard at times to be completely positive because we all want the outcome to be different. Everybody feels like they can do something to change that,” DeRozan said, via Johnson. “We gotta stay on each other. We’re in it together, win, lose or draw. It’s human nature to get frustrated so figure out ways to stay uplifted.”

  • The Bulls waived forward Kostas Antetokounmpo and signed point guard Carlik Jones to a two-way contract, the team announced in a press release. Jones is 6-1 and is averaging 20.9 points and 7.7 assists with the G League’s windy City Bulls.

Pacers

Coach Rick Carlisle was disappointed with the way the Pacers blew a lead against the Cavaliers on Friday, but walked away impressed with guard Donovan Mitchell, who erupted for 41 points.

“Mitchell was spectacular,” Carlisle said, via Dustin Dopirak of the Indianapolis Star. “What else are you going to say? The guy was out of this world. It was breathtaking to watch the plays that he continued to make and the shots that he continued to make.”

As for the Pacers, it appeared to be at least partially a lack of ball movement that did them in.

“In the fourth quarter, we stopped passing the ball,” Carlisle said, via Dopirak. “After really putting on almost a master class of ball movement and player movement and unselfishness, in the fourth, we just let it get away from us. We struggled defensively and we struggled offensively, but the ball movement just wasn’t what it was. For us, we have to play a certain way and we didn’t do it in the fourth and paid a price. A pretty heavy price.”

That said, it’s all part of the learning experience for a Pacers team that still seems as if it’s on the rise.

“Obviously it’s frustrating,” point guard Tyrese Haliburton said, via Dopirak. “Right? But, we’re a young team, and I think there’s two things you gotta show. Can you fight back when it’s not going right and can you hold a lead? We’ve shown all year that we can fight back when things aren’t going our way. We have yet to really show that we know how to hold on to a lead the right way.

“But that comes with maturity. That comes with experience. We all get along. We all love each other. We’re a great, great team, a bunch of guys who are together. It’s just figuring it out right now. It’s just going to come with time.”

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