PHILADELPHIA — Devin Harris wants everyone to know it was a pass.
He swears the drive late in Saturday night’s game that appeared to be another miss for the Nets’ All-Star was a pass off the backboard. Jason Kidd did those all the time — in transition. But this was the first time we’ve seen Harris do it — and it was a decisive play.
Maybe it was a pass. He knows better. Whatever it was, it wound up being a huge play in the Nets’ favor, especially after Brook Lopez rose up and threw down his 17th carom for points 23 and 24, which wound up being the game-winning basket.
Whatever it was, it was a much-needed, game-changing play for the Nets that they hope can become season changing. They did the unexpected and unthinkable on Saturday, beating the Sixers, 85-83, when it seemed the Nets were headed for consecutive loss No. 4 and defeat nine in 10 games.
The Nets lost Vince Carter to an ankle injury, essentially in the third period. Harris was having an off night. The Nets gave Philadelphia a lane as open as a tunnel to drive through and they went more than six minutes in the third period without a basket.
Yet the Nets won this game.
They were behind by 17 with about 16 minutes to go and trailing by 12 with 8:43 remaining and Carter in the locker room.
Yet, the Nets won this game.
Carter had just seven points when he left. Harris had as many turnovers as assists (six), missed eight-of-14 field goals and five-of-eight foul shots, including a pair that would have tied the game with about two minutes left.
Yet, the Nets won this game.
I keep saying it’s still unthinkable. Just like Harris had to keep telling reporters it was a pass. We needed convincing.
Harris was dead serious when he said it.
“That was a pass,” he said.
Even when some of us joked with him about it, he wasn’t smiling.
“It was a pass,” he said.
I asked him how much the Nets needed this win and he told me he answered that already. I said, sorry, I was talking to the guy who made the shot.
“It was a pass,” Harris said.
“It really was a pass,” he said.
OK, for argument’s sake we’ll say it was a pass. But there’s no arguing how great a win this was for the Nets.
They showed the fight we haven’t seen from them in a while. They battled. They battled through bad nights from their stars, another bad defensive performance and another third-quarter disappearing act.
They played defense in the fourth, holding the Sixers without a basket for the last 10:38. They held them to two points in the last 8:42. They got huge efforts from Lopez, Trenton Hassell, a surprise addition to the rotation, and Jarvis Hayes, playing on a sprained ankle
But their win wasn’t complete until Hassell blocked Andre Miller’s layup in the closing seconds and Harris sent Royal Ivey’s potential game-winning three into the crowd.
There’s no denying Harris saved the Nets with that play. And he did set up the Nets’ game-winning basket.
They were down, 83-82, and he drove easily to the basket. When Marreese Speights came over to help, Harris appeared to be missing a layup — and that’s how it’s recorded on the play-by-play sheet — but maybe, just maybe, he really was throwing it off the backboard for Lopez.
Come to think of it, it was perfectly placed.
“When I seen Speights come over I’m just throwing it up there and nobody blocked Brook out,” Harris said. “It was easier to try and make a fall-away lob pass. It really was a pass.”
“It was a much-needed win,” Harris added.
One more thing: “It was a pass.”
If it was, considering the time and circumstance, it was heady, gutsy and amazing play. But the most amazing thing is the Nets won this game.
Carter said his ankle is OK. He expects to play Tuesday against the Bucks.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).