New York Daily News


Rodgers says word on future is not far, far, far, far off Surprise again! Nets take down West power Nuggets


Who needs a clutch scorer when you have a clutch defense?

For the second game in a row, the Nets’ fourth-quarter offense sputtered, and for the second game in a row, it was their defense that secured the victory.

The Nets held onto a 122-120 victory over the Western Conference

No. 1-seeded Nuggets on Sunday afternoon. After losing four straight games coming out of NBA All-Star Weekend, the Nets have won five of their last six games.

The Nets entered Sunday with the No. 1 defense in the league during their winning stretch — and it took grit on that end of the floor to slow down MVP frontrunne­r Nikola Jokic on the road in Denver.

And it was a game that became a one-possession affair as the clock dwindled late in the fourth quarter.

For the Nets, crunch time is the new scary hours.

Those minutes — defined as the final five minutes of a game with a five-point margin — were once a safe haven for a team that previously employed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, two of the better clutch performers in NBA history.

That’s been the constant ever since the Nets pulled the trigger on the two deals that sent Irving to the Mavericks and Durant to Suns.

How will this team fare in the clutch without stars to lean on down the stretch?

After forcing the ball out of Timberwolv­es star Anthony Edwards’ hands on the final possession of Friday’s overtime victory in Minnesota, the Nets forced Jokic into a contested three at the buzzer to seal a twopoint victory in Denver.

Jokic finished with 35 points, 20 rebound and 11 assists, but all five Nets starters scored in double figures — led by Spencer Dinwiddie, who led the charge with 15 points and a career-high 16 assists.

And now, the Nets get to take a well-earned victory lap. Their chances at retaining playoff standing took a shot when the Durant and Irving deals finalized in early February.

Yet they continue to roll in the second half of the season: they came back from down 28 to defeat the Celtics in Boston, and have won five of their last six, with a chance to go 4-1 on their five-game road trip.

Next up: The Nets travel to Oklahoma City to take on All-Star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Thunder.


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