Nic Claxton just set one career high and tied another in his second season with the Nets, but he’s not the big star of the family this week.
Younger brother Chase Claxton averages 4.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game off the bench for Winthrop, which was slotted as the No. 12 seed in the South Region when the NCAA Tournament field was revealed on Selection Sunday. With a 23-1 record and facing shorthanded No. 5 seed Villanova on Friday, Winthrop is one of the trendiest upset picks to create some March Madness.
So, who’s having the better week?
“I’m going to give it to [Chase],” Claxton said. “We always go at it. Hopefully, they can upset Villanova.”
There’s no upsetting the Nets — winners of 14 of their past 15 games — these days. And Claxton, who made his season debut about three weeks ago after overcoming knee and shoulder injuries, is one of the surprise reasons.
The power forward matched his career-high with eight rebounds to go with 11 points — and the Nets were plus-24 with him on the court — in a career-high 22 minutes Wednesday in a 124-115 win over the Pacers. He was part of a five-man unit that played the entire fourth quarter, closing out a tight game for the first time in his career.
In perhaps the ultimate compliment, coach Steve Nash used a couple of fourth-quarter timeouts to give Claxton a breather without sitting him down.
“I had to work for this. This wasn’t given to me — being able to finish games with these guys,” Claxton said. “In high school, it was the same way. In college, it was the same way. That’s just how it’s always been. They say history repeats itself, so I’m enjoying the journey and just taking everything day by day, staying present. Never getting too high, never getting too low.”
Claxton had four points — two off an offensive-rebound dunk and two after he blocked a shot, caught an outlet pass and finished a layup — during a crucial stretch that put the Nets ahead 98-96.
Around the same time that Chase’s game is tipping off, Nic, whose alma mater (Georgia) is not in the tournament, will be looking for a crunch-time repeat performance Friday against the Magic.
“He’s just been giving that young energy that we need off of the bench,” MVP candidate James Harden said. “Spreading the floor, blocking shots, rebounding the basketball and catching lobs. Any time a player — especially as young as he is — just goes out there and plays his butts off, great things happen for him.
“And then obviously, myself and the vets are telling him places to be defensively … but we can’t teach him the effort, and he’s been doing an unbelievable job of doing that and he’s giving us that boost.”
Kyrie Irving (right groin soreness) is probable to face the Magic on Friday, while Kevin Durant (left hamstring strain), Blake Griffin (left knee injury management) and Spencer Dinwiddie (right knee) are out.
Originally published at https://nypost.com/2021/03/19/nets-nic-claxton-will-watch-brother-chase-in-ncaa-tourney/ on .