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Fourth-quarter collapse costs Nets in OKC

MVP Westbrook’s late drive denies Brooklyn third straight victory

January 24, 2018 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook broke the Nets’ hearts with this layup over Jarrett Allen Tuesday night in Oklahoma City, leading the Thunder to a 109-108 victory over Brooklyn.  AP Photo by Sue Ogrocki
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Brooklyn’s Heartbreak Kids were at it again Tuesday night in Oklahoma City.

After Spencer Dinwiddie made a go-ahead layup with seven seconds to play, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook answered with one of his own just four ticks later, leaving the Nets to lament a 109-108 loss to the Thunder in front of 18,203 fans at Chesapeake Energy Center.

Brooklyn, which has specialized in taking teams to the wire this season, squandered a 15-point, second-half lead before the late back-and-forth between the Nets’ Mr. Big Shot and the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player.

The Nets fell to 13-19 in their NBA-high 32nd “Clutch” game of the year, described by the league as contests featuring teams separated by five points or fewer with less than five minutes to play in regulation.

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According to Brooklyn head coach Kenny Atkinson, the final outcome provided yet another lesson for his team on what it needs to do better before the final five minutes.

“We gave up 35 points in the fourth quarter and made a ton of mistakes,” Atkinson said after the Nets came up three seconds shy of their first three-game winning streak of the season.

“I loved our competitive spirit throughout the game — how we defended — but I thought in the fourth quarter, we made some fundamental mistakes.”

The Nets committed 13 turnovers while forcing only four and failed to make the end-game a non-issue after frittering away an 83-68 advantage with 1:28 remaining in the third quarter.

“That’s the growth process that we’re talking about — the team that makes the least mistakes wins,” Atkinson noted after Brooklyn failed to complete the season sweep against Oklahoma City seven weeks after coming from behind to stun the Thunder, 100-95, in Mexico City on Dec. 7.

“We just gave them too many, we broke down too much in that fourth quarter,” Atkinson added. “It’s hard to win by giving up 35 points in the fourth quarter.”

Despite their fourth-quarter collapse, the Nets (18-30) got a reprieve from Dinwiddie, who was coming off Sunday’s last-second game-winning jumper in Detroit.

The 24-year-old Los Angeles native weaved his way to the basket and made what would have been his fifth late-game winner of the season, if not for Westbrook.

The triple-double king, who finished with 32 points, five rebounds and six assists, got some help shaking Dinwiddie off a physical high screen from Paul George before elevating over Jarrett Allen and laying in what proved to be the final dagger.

Dinwiddie took exception to the non-call, as did the Brooklyn bench, but Westbrook still had to outleap the 6-foot-11 Allen and get a fortunate pair of bounces off the rim before the shot fell through.

“They sat in the paint all game long,” Westbrook said of the Nets’ defense. “I was just trying [to find] a way to get to the basket.”

Dinwiddie tried to respond, but his desperation, step-back prayer of a 25-footer as time expired went unanswered, dropping the Nets to 1-1 on this ongoing five-game road trip, which continues Friday night in Milwaukee.

Joe Harris resumed his recent hot shooting by draining all five of his 3-pointers en route to a team-high 19 points for Brooklyn, which finished 16-of-38 from beyond the arc while limiting Oklahoma City (27-20) to a 7-of-25 performance.

“I really thought this was one of the best wins we’ve had all year,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan told the Associated Press. “From a statistical standpoint, you don’t normally win a game like that.”

Dinwiddie and DeMare Carroll added 13 points apiece for the Nets, who held Oklahoma City to 17 second-quarter points before surrendering 62 over the final 24 minutes.

“We’ve got to learn to close out games like this against really good teams,” said Carroll.

Nothing But Net: Harris has made 26-of-49 3-pointers in January, and should be considered for participation in the NBA’s Long-Distance Shootout in Los Angeles on Feb. 18 … Allen finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds for his first career double-double. The lanky rookie did his best to force Westbrook into a miss without fouling him on the game’s decisive play, but failed to register what would have been his second blocked shot of the night … D’Angelo Russell, who is still working his way back from a knee injury that sidelined him for two months, played 15 minutes off the bench Tuesday, finishing with seven points, four assists and a pair of turnovers … After visiting the Bucks on Friday, the Nets will go to Minnesota on Saturday and Madison Square Garden next Tuesday to take on the archrival New York Knicks.


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