Brooklyn Boro

Nets lack necessary ‘juice’ to beat Sixers

Wilt Down Stretch in 106-101 Loss to Philadelphia at Barclays Center

March 29, 2017 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn native Isaiah Whitehead and the rest of the Nets weren’t able to shut down the shorthanded 76ers down the stretch Tuesday night at Downtown’s Barclays Center, guaranteeing themselves a losing March despite making some positive strides this past month. AP photo
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Enjoying by far their best stretch of this otherwise awful season, the Brooklyn Nets ran out of “juice” in the closing moments of Tuesday night’s disappointing 106-101 loss to the shorthanded Philadelphia 76ers at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

Leading by one following a clutch 3-pointer by Brooklyn’s own Isaiah Whitehead with 2:29 to play, the Nets never scored again, watching almost helplessly as their hope of a fourth win in five games and second set of back-to-back victories in almost a year’s time went up in smoke.

“Whatever it is, we did not have it,” first-year head coach Kenny Atkinson admitted after Brooklyn lost its best chance at finishing at or above .500 this month by slipping to 7-9 in March.

“We did not have the juice from the beginning, it was an uphill battle all game.”

Brook Lopez continued his strong all-around play with a game-high 26 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two blocked shots, but his bid for a tying 3-pointer with 33 seconds left on the clock went unanswered as the league-worst Nets (16-58) squandered a chance to build on their recent run of success.

“I don’t know if it was a combination of the juice or concentration and focus,” Lopez said. “But we were just throwing a lot of balls away and just missing opportunities.”

The Sixers (28-46) dressed only nine players and appeared primed for a walk-over, but Brooklyn never quite put Philadelphia away despite rallying to take a 78-72 lead on a Quincy Acy free throw with three minutes remaining in the third quarter.

“We couldn’t push that six-point lead,” Atkinson lamented. “I thought we were playing well and we couldn’t push it over six. All night we couldn’t get over that hump of getting that impetus, that push we needed to get over it.”

Instead, the Nets got pushed around when it mattered most.

Dario Saric scored 23 points and Robert Covington added 21 and 13 boards for the Sixers, who matched their combined total of wins (28) from the previous two campaigns at Brooklyn’s expense in front of 15,471 fans on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

“It’s just a testament to all the hard work,” Covington said. “This team is very resilient. We fight each and every night we step on the court.”

The Nets, by their own admission, lacked the necessary fight to put Philadelphia down for the count despite thriving of late in victories over Detroit and Phoenix here last week coupled with Sunday’s blowout win in Atlanta.

“I just felt like we relaxed a little bit after we won three of four,” admitted Jeremy Lin, who endured a rough night, managing 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting in 30 minutes.

“It’s a valuable lesson for us to be able to learn that this league is tough on any given night.”

The NBA has been tough on the Nets from the get-go this year, with Lin sitting out a combined 44 games due to a couple of hamstring injuries that seriously hampered his ability to get into the flow of the season with Lopez and the rest of his teammates.

Previously injured Sean Kilpatrick made his return from a hamstring issue of his own Tuesday, scoring nine points in 12 minutes off the bench after missing the previous six contests.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 11 points and Spencer Dinwiddie added 10 for Brooklyn, which will be in Detroit Thursday night looking for its second win in nine days against the Pistons.

The Nets will return to Brooklyn this weekend, hosting Orlando on Saturday and Atlanta on Sunday.

* * *

The playoff-hopeful but slumping Islanders will find themselves at least four points behind the second Eastern Conference wild card when they skate into Philadelphia for a critical showdown with the Flyers on Thursday night.

New York, which has lost two straight and six of nine during this critical push toward the playoffs, will play five of its final seven regular-season games on the road.

The Islanders will need some firepower from the jump after managing two goals or fewer in all but one of their last seven games.

Team captain John Tavares was held off the scoresheet in Monday night’s brutal 3-1 home loss to Nashville, which dropped the Isles behind both Tampa Bay and wild card-leading Boston in the hunt for the franchise’s third consecutive playoff berth.

“We have to find a way to dig deeper and try to put games together,” interim head coach Doug Weight emphasized. “We are too late to the party on a consistent basis. It’s been a problem.”

Entering Wednesday night’s action, the Isles (35-28-12) were four points behind Boston (86 points) and just one back of Tampa Bay (83), which knocked New York out of the playoffs during last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals.

As recently as last Saturday evening, the Isles were in full control of their own playoff destiny. They hope to regain that advantage over the next two weeks, but will need help from others to do so.

“At this point you’re just looking to get wins no matter how ugly they are,” admitted Josh Bailey, who scored the lone goal for New York in Monday’s loss.

After leaving Philly, the Isles will return to Barclays to host the Devils Friday night before embarking on a four-game trip through Buffalo, Nashville, Carolina and New Jersey.


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