Either Nic Claxton is enjoying Texas, or he’s having a breakthrough.
After putting up a career-high 17 points in Monday’s win at San Antonio, Claxton had a 16-point encore Wednesday night in Houston to close the first half of the Nets’ season. He added a career-high eight rebounds in just 16 minutes off the bench.
“I’m just staying present. That’s something I’ve worked on throughout my rehab. Taking everything day by day, whether it’s having a good game, you learn if it’s a bad game and do the same thing,” Claxton said after the Nets beat the Rockets 132-114. “I wouldn’t say it’s a breakout stretch, I’m just continuing to learn how to play with the guys out there and continue to grow. The sky’s the limit.”
Because Claxton went nearly a year without playing, the Nets are carefully monitoring his minutes and easing him back.
“He’s got himself through a few games here in a week and we’re keeping his minutes down,” coach Steve Nash said. “But he’s growing, he’s performing and if you look at him tonight: 16 points, eight rebounds in limited minutes. That’s outstanding.
“But we try to keep Nic’s feet on the ground, keep him humble and hungry and little bit by little bit, not getting ahead of himself, because if he stays the course and keeps his head down, he’s gonna be a really good player.”
With the Nets trying to weather a significant Rockets run in the third quarter, Nash took guard Kyrie Irving aside for a chat. It wasn’t about his shoulder injury or pressing, but just his mindset. Whatever he said worked. Irving made big plays down the stretch as the Nets answered back and blew the game open.
“No, just checking in with him, making sure he’s doing OK, and making sure he’s in the right frame of mind,” Nash said. “These are tricky games, the last game before a break. You’ve got a short window to spend time with loved ones.
“For Ky and James [Harden], they’ve got to go to All-Star Weekend, and it’s tricky mentally when you play such an intense schedule and then you’ve got one game before you’re free. It’s like the last day of school, it’s hard to focus. So just kind of checking in, making sure he’s OK. And he played well down the stretch and made some big shots.”
Kevin Durant (hamstring), Jeff Green (right shoulder contusion) and wing Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (right knee soreness) sat out Wednesday night.
Green has missed four of the last five games. Nash acknowledged the 34-year-old may have a nerve issue, albeit a minor one that the Nets hope won’t linger past the All-Star break. Green was able to put up a dozens of 3-pointers before the pregame layup line.
“I don’t think it’s anything serious. I do think there’s probably a nerve issue going on that just takes a minute to resolve,” Nash said. “There’s no point risking or rushing him if he doesn’t feel he can contribute the way he wants to. So letting that settle down. It doesn’t appear like there’s long-term issue or this is something that’ll linger. It’s something that just needs to settle down and he should be good to go after that.”