The Brooklyn Nets entered their Monday night tilt against the Indiana Pacers motivated to avenge their loss to the same team two days prior. And the Nets passed the test with flying colors, as they held-off the hard-charging Pacers in the fourth quarter off Kevin Durant's 36 point, 7 rebound, and 9 assist explosion. Kyrie Irving, faced with much controversy, also pitched in his usual contributions on the court, having tallied 28 points, six rebounds and six assists in the winning effort.
Alas, as the Nets would attest to, two players, even if they are of Durant and Irving's caliber, cannot compensate for the lack of production from the entire team. The Nets recently lost four straight games despite their dynamic duo's insane scoring feats, necessitating someone to step up to spur the struggling team to victory. And the Nets finally got a boost from their role players, this time from fourth-year center Nicolas Claxton.
Claxton, who was drafted 31st overall in the 2019 NBA Draft, tallied 19 points and nine rebounds against the Pacers, and he made some crucial hustle plays late in the game, crashing the offensive glass with reckless abandon. The 23-year old clearly showed more energy than he has in previous games, and something appears to have clicked for him in the past few days. However, head coach Steve Nash refused to go in detail what exactly spurred Claxton's huge performance.
Per Alex Schiffer of The Athletic: “Steve Nash called Nic Claxton ‘much improved.' Said he addressed some things the staff had asked of him. When asked for specifics, Nash said he'll keep that in house.”
While Claxton hasn't done anything to warrant controversy unlike some of his teammates, it's understandable why Nash wants to remain tight-lipped with regards to anything behind-the-scenes. The Nets are the talk of the NBA community especially after they got entangled within Kyrie Irving's antisemitic controversy, and they would very much like to get through the ordeal without drawing too much more attention.
Alas, Nicolas Claxton has put up solid counting stats to begin the year, building off his potential as one of the league's premier shot blockers. In addition to the stats mentioned above, Claxton also blocked four Pacers shots, boosting his season average to 2.3 blocks a night. It also might have helped the Nets' spacing that Claxton was able to play all of his minutes as the only non-shooting threat on the floor after Ben Simmons' absence. Nonetheless, the 23-year old center's emergence will be crucial to the Nets' hopes of at least mustering a league-average defensive effort.