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Irving leads short-handed Nets past Pelicans, 134-129

Kyrie Irving capped a 32-point performance with a tough turnaround jumper, a driving layup through converging defenders and four free throws in the final minute, and the Brooklyn Nets held on for a 134-129 victory over the reeling New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night.

Joe Harris also hit a pair of late free throws to cap his 24-point night for the Nets, who won despite being without both Kevin Durant and James Harden.

Brooklyn coach Steve Nash twice commanded the Nets to foul Pelicans ball-handlers coming across halfcourt in the final seconds rather than allow New Orleans to set up potential game-tying 3-point shots.

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson shoots over Brooklyn Nets forward Jeff Green (8) in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (AP PhotoGerald Herbert)

It ultimately worked.

New Orleans still got one last chance to set up a 3 in the final 4.8 seconds, but Irving's steal attempt caused Zion Williamson to lose the ball out of bounds along the sideline, dooming the Pelicans to a fourth straight loss.

Williamson scored 33 points. Brandon Ingram added 27 points for the Pelicans, who fell four games behind Golden State and San Antonio for the final play-in spot in the Western Conference with 14 games left in the regular season.

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson shoots over Brooklyn Nets forward Jeff Green in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (AP PhotoGerald Herbert)

Landry Shamet had 18 points and eight assists for the Nets. Blake Griffin had 16 points and eight rebounds in a reserve role and Bruce Brown added 11 points and 11 rebounds.

The Pelicans led by as many as 13 when Eric Bledsoe's 3 made it 21-8 in the middle of the opening period.

The Nets cut it to 29-26 on Griffin's 3 by the time the quarter was over.

Brooklyn Nets forward Bruce Brown (1) slam dunks over New Orleans Pelicans forward Wes Iwundu (4) and center Willy Hernangomez in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (AP PhotoGerald Herbert)

New Orleans maintained a single-digit lead throughout most of the second quarter, but the Nets went into halftime down just 59-57 after Brown's 3.

The Nets appeared to be taking control in the middle of the third quarter, when Harris hit a driving layup and two 3s to power a 16-2 run made 75-65. The Nets pushed their lead to 12 when Jeff Green's put-back made it 83-71.

But Lonzo Ball scored seven quick points to ignite a 14-4 Pelicans spurt which cut it to 89-87 late in the third.

Brooklyn Nets forward Blake Griffin (2) passes the ball away from New Orleans Pelicans forward Wes Iwundu (4) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (AP PhotoGerald Herbert)

Neither team led by more than seven points during tight forth quarter that once again saw the Pelicans falter in crunch time.

TIP-INS

Nets: Durant, who entered the game tied with Irving for Brooklyn's top scoring average at 27.3 points per game, missed his first full game since bruising his left thigh during the Nets' previous game at Miami. ... Griffin fouled out with 11.4 seconds to go when he purposely fouled Ingram to prevent the Pelicans from attempting a tying 3. ... Green had 15 points and nine assists. ... Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot scored 10 points. ... Brooklyn outrebounded New Orleans 44-37.

Brooklyn Nets forward Jeff Green is fouled by New Orleans Pelicans center Steven Adams as he goes to the basket in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (AP PhotoGerald Herbert)

Pelicans: Ball and Naji Marshall each scored 15 points. ... Rookie Kira Lewis Jr. scored 11 points. ... The Pelicans missed nine of 24 free throws, with Marshall missing five of six.

UP NEXT

Nets: Visits the Raptors on Wednesday night.

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) loses the ball as he drives the lane between New Orleans Pelicans forward Naji Marshall (8), forward Zion Williamson (1) and forward Wes Iwundu (4) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (AP PhotoGerald Herbert)

Pelicans: Visits Orlando on Thursday.

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