Nets hit nadir with latest Brooklyn disaster
Squander 20-point fourth-quarter lead in loss to Oklahoma City
The Brooklyn Nets continue to find new ways to write the same old story.
And this may have been their most inventive tale yet.
“What’s the definition of insanity?” pondered frustrated veteran forward Jared Dudley following the Nets’ season-high eighth consecutive loss and latest fourth-quarter debacle at Downtown’s Barclays Center on Wednesday night.
“[Doing] the same [thing], over and over, and not changing, not adjusting,” added Dudley after Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder somehow walked out of Brooklyn with a 114-112 victory despite being down by as many as 20 points in the fourth quarter.
The Nets (8-18) held a 23-point advantage in the third quarter and were up 95-75 with 11:29 to play after Joe Harris, back from a three-game absence due to an abductor injury, drained a pair of free throws.
But George, who wound up outscoring Brooklyn, 25-19, by himself over the final 12 minutes, took over thereafter, putting an exclamation point on his 47-point, 15-rebound virtuoso performance by draining a wide-open 3-pointer with 3.1 seconds left to put Oklahoma City up for good.
The epic breakdown was the result of the Nets’ poor shooting down the stretch and an even more galling lack of game management.
D’Angelo Russell grabbed a defensive rebound with just over 25 seconds remaining and the Nets clinging to a one-point lead.
Rather than draining the 24-second clock and all but eliminating any chance for the Thunder to respond on the other end, the point guard hoisted up an ill-fated 3-pointer with 11 seconds to go that bounded harmlessly into the hands of George.
“The D’Angelo one-at-the-end of the shot clock, it’s just something he’s got to learn,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said. “You’ve got to take the shot clock down. You’ve got to leave a little time on the clock, but that’s just a learning thing for a 22-year-old point guard.”
Following a timeout with 8.1 ticks on the clock, the crowd of 13,161 on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues rose as one in the hopes of fending off Brooklyn’s latest gut-wrenching loss.
Nets fans had already watched Jimmy Butler and the Philadelphia 76ers beat them with a last-second 3-pointer on Nov. 25.
Then, Memphis erased a seven-point lead in the final moments of regulation en route to a double-overtime victory here last Friday night.
Cleveland’s Alec Burks stunned the Brooklyn faithful with a game-winning dunk with 3.2 seconds remaining on Monday night.
And now it was George’s turn.
After accepting a pass from triple-double machine Russell Westbrook, George calmly pump-faked a hard-charging Spencer Dinwiddie out of his sneakers before sinking a 26-footer to put Oklahoma City ahead to stay.
Dudley was stripped on the ensuing possession before Nets players sulked back into the locker room following their eighth straight loss here at Barclays.
“At the end, I don’t know if it’s a switch or not a switch,” Dudley wondered aloud while discussing the Thunder’s final possession.
“Paul George hits a wide-open 3, Burks scores around a back dunk. It’s like these game-winners are the easiest game-winners in NBA history. So, we got to figure out a way.”
Dudley wasn’t the only Nets player to vent following the defeat, which dropped Brooklyn a season-high 10 games below .500 and within three games of Phoenix (4-19) for the worst record in the NBA.
“Honestly, it’s deflating,” ceded Allen Crabbe after leading Brooklyn with 22 points on a season high-tying seven 3-pointers.
“Third or fourth game we could have won,” he added. “We’ve had trouble. Over the whole game we’ve played great all three quarters, but it just goes to show you you’ve got to play all 48.”
The Nets have squandered a league-high seven double-digit leads in their litany of losses and will try to avert a ninth consecutive defeat overall at Barclays when they host the Toronto Raptors here on Friday night.
Atkinson, who is running out of his usual uplifting takes following a painful defeat, did his best to not cave in to what had to be the most head-scratching of his 134 losses since taking the job here three seasons ago.
“We’ve got good guys. Of course, we’re down now. It’s a darn shame, because I thought we played a hell of a game,” he said.
“We knew that the storm was coming. They’re too good. They’re playing too well. The regret is not holding on to a 20-point lead. It’s just frustrating now because our guys did a lot of good things out there.”
Harris finished with 19 points and Russell and Jarrett Allen added 17 apiece for Brooklyn, which hasn’t won a game here in Brooklyn since Nov. 4.
“This is the NBA,” Harris noted. “You’ve got to be able to play a complete a game, and we’ve yet to do that, especially here in these last eight games.”
Nothing But Net: Westbrook made some history at Brooklyn’s expense Wednesday, amassing 21 points, 17 assists and 15 rebounds for his 108th career triple-double, moving him past Nets legend Jason Kidd into third place on the all-time list. “To be able to pass him is something I never even dreamed about, so just honored,” Westbrook said of the achievement. … Following their game against the Raptors on Friday night, the Nets will visit the New York Knicks on Saturday and go to Philadelphia to take on the 76ers next Wednesday.