It didn’t matter that the Brooklyn Nets were without their leading scorer Kevin Durant on Christmas Day, because James Harden and Patty Mills had one of their biggest games of the year. Harden led Brooklyn with 36 points and Mills had 34, but neither of them had the most impressive play of the game.
That accolade belonged to Nic Claxton. Well, it was in part due to Harden, so we guess he gets credit too.
The game was tied at 115-115 with 45 seconds left to play, and the Nets were coming out of a timeout. Harden inbounded the ball to Mills, who then passed it back to Harden, who dribbled it to the top of the key and threw an alley-oop to Claxton.
Claxton proceeded to dunk over LeBron James, igniting a 7-0 run to end the game with a 122-115 win.
The 22-year-old missed 17 games with a non-COVID illness this year before returning to the court on Dec. 3. His development has been a concern, but, um, he did dunk the ball over one of the greatest players of all time. And it seems he’s starting to get back on track.
Nic Claxton comes up huge with dunk over LeBron in Brooklyn Nets win.
If that play wasn’t executed properly, the outcome of the game could’ve been much different. Thankfully, Claxton had a picture-perfect finish.
Brooklyn had allowed for Los Angeles to creep back into the game with a 31-8 run, but the 2019 second-round draft pick ruined Christmas for those hoping for a comeback. Not to mention, the play is something that Claxton’s going to never forget.
Regardless of what Claxton accomplishes in his NBA career, what happened on Dec. 25 in the final minute of the game will forever be remembered by Nets fans. It not only helped Brooklyn win the game, but it helped to boost the confidence of the young center.
When asked about the play before the Nets game against the Clippers on Dec. 27, Claxton said:
"“It’s definitely good in growing confidence. The coaching staff trusting me to finish big games and my teammates trusting me to go out and make plays. James having that trust to even throw that pass like that, it says a lot about the way he feels about me.”"
In Brooklyn’s 124-108 win on Monday, Claxton’s confidence boost that he received on Christmas showed. He finished with a career-high 18 points and added five rebounds, three blocks, and two assists. On Friday against the 76ers, he had 10 points, nine rebounds, two blocks, two assists and a steal.
Brooklyn still has a long way to go before the playoffs begin in mid-April, but Claxton’s abilities have already taken a huge turn since he re-joined the lineup less than a month ago.
The former Georgia star coming up clutch for the Nets proved once again that Sean Marks’ drafting abilities are some of the best in the league.