Kyrie Irving dropped 50 points in what doubled as a single-game record between the Nets and NBA for a player's debut with a new team, but the star point guard's valiant effort ultimately fell short at the end of Wednesday's 127-126 season-opening overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
On the last possession out of a Nets timeout with 14.5 seconds left, Irving did what head coach Kenny Atkinson wanted -- get the ball in the hands of the team's best player and see what happens in the final moments -- but Irving's jump shot from just beyond the free-throw line rimmed off the right side at the buzzer.
Irving, who made 17 of 33 shots (51.5 percent) across the floor and went 7 for 14 (50.0 percent) from three-point range, had no interest in entertaining the historic individual peformance.
"The job wasn't done," said Irving, who added eight rebounds and tied for a game-high seven assists. "So that 50 just goes into the (books) as just a few numbers that -- it holds value, but not really when you don't get a win."
The West Orange, New Jersey, native and Patrick School product grew up as a Nets fan while the team was still in East Rutherford and Newark.
After eight years of an NBA journey with the Cleveland Cavaliers (2011-17) and Boston Celtics (2017-19), Irving's Nets debut was more than a decade in the making.
Irving's 50-point outing -- including 25 in the first half, followed by seven of the Nets' 11 overtime points -- made for quite the first impression, but Atkinson wanted better all-around production from the team.
"He was outstanding," Atkinson said of Irving. "Obviously, great debut for him. Disappointed we made such a big hole for us."
Despite Irving's hot start with 12 points in the first quarter, the Nets trailed 33-22 and eventually allowed the Timberwolves (1-0) to go up by as much as 18 points -- 46-28 at the 8:18 mark of the second quarter -- before they chipped away for their comeback and turned the light on after halftime.
At the half, the Nets trailed 68-56 with only eight assists.
Atkinson emphasized the need for better ball movement and offensive chemistry from Irving and the rest of the team, and the Nets delivered, but a little too late.
"Everybody talks about the end of the game," Atkinson said. "Really, this game was lost in the first half."
Irving kept the Nets together as the supporting cast, including Taurean Prince, who posted a double-double on 15 points and 11 rebounds, came to life.
"It's good to see, he had a great game," Prince said. "Definitely feel like if he didn't slip that last possession, we would've went home with a 'W.' But things happen. It just gives us a chance to get better."
Irving replayed the moment on a loop in his head after he fell during the final possession, getting up just in time to recover and get a shot off but misfiring right.
"I fell -- I was in the process of making another move and just lost my footing, lost my balance and somehow I got it back and just got to get my elbow pointed at the rim," Irving said. "I (would have) had a better chance at making it. It was right a little bit. So just got to tuck in the elbow a little bit, have a better chance. But when you lose balance like that ... that's what happened. So I give credit to (Josh Okogie), but obviously, just losing my balance made a big difference in that."
With the same opportunity on a similar situation at the end of regulation, Irving drove down the right lane but dished off to Jarrett Allen, who drew the foul in the low post but missed both of two free throws while 5.7 seconds remained.
"I think we're getting to know each other and he's getting to know his teammates," Atkinson said. "He's getting to know the system. I think he, obviously, was hot there, but we'll look at (the tape) -- I thought he made some great (plays), the pass to Jarrett Allen on the roll, we got two free throws out of. I think there was a kick out to Taurean Prince, wide open, so I think there were good plays made there.
"I always say with point guards, 'Read the defense. If the game calls for you to get 50 points, get 50. There are other nights where it's going to be 15 assists.' So we'll look at it and, again, I think a big part of this is just getting more reps together, knowing each other better."
With the Knicks (0-1) on deck Friday at 7:30 p.m. from Barclays Center, Irving and the Nets turn back around under 48 hours for the next of 81 games, sure to have the added juice as a crosstown rivalry renews.
"I've been waiting to get started for a few months now, kind of test our system against some other guys, really just start the journey of just, goal of getting through 82 games healthy," Irving said. "So it's a great starting point. Obviously, you want to get a win in front of our home crowd. But (we) have another chance on Friday, we're going to watch film tomorrow and just see where we can get better. It's still a new, developing group for us."