Frustrations mount for slumping Nets

Drop season-high third straight to Pistons in Motor City

February 10, 2021 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Kevin Durant wasn’t the only thing missing from the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night in Detroit.

According to rookie head coach Steve Nash, the team’s collective effort was hard to find from start to finish.

“It’s up to the team to decide what type of team they want to be, what they want to get out of this experience,” said a frustrated Nash following the Nets’ season-high third consecutive loss, a 122-111 setback to the league-worst Pistons at a fanless Little Caesars Arena.

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“I’m sure every team is going through this to some extent, with the heavy schedule, missing bodies, all sorts of stuff thrown at us, so I don’t think we’re in isolation here. I think there’s a lot of teams that struggle with this from different nights. But I think our team needs to challenge themselves and figure out who they want to be, and what they want to represent together.”

With Durant sidelined until at least Saturday while observing COVID-19 protocols, Brooklyn (14-12) hardly had the look of a team many were picking to go to the NBA FInals just over a week ago in the midst of a season-high four-game winning streak.

The Nets trailed by 12 points after one quarter and were behind by as many as 20 in the opening half before mounting what proved to be a fruitless comeback following intermission.

Jerami Grant scored a career high-tying 32 points as the Pistons (6-18), who came into the game with the NBA’s poorest record, snapped a four-game losnig streak at Brooklyn’s expense.

“This is professional sports. The other team is talented and capable, and we’re short-handed,” Nash re-iterated.

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“We’ve got a lot to clean up. Number one thing is just that attitude and that competition level and that connectivity.”

Kyrie Irving, back in the lineup after sitting out Saturday’s loss to Philadelphia with a finger injury, scored a team-high 27 points and James Harden added 24 for the Nets, who were scheduled for a quick turnaround Wednesday night against Indiana at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

“We look very average, and we have the talent that the eye test presents, that we should be dominating,” Irving said. “We’re dealing with a lot of the reality that we’re putting this together on the fly.”

Soaring up the standings at 14-9 and challenging for the top seed in the Eastern Conference just a week ago, the Nets now find themselves trying to figure out how to get back into the win column.

And back in their coach’s good graces.

“So, having played the game, a certain amount of that comes down to team building within that locker room, and deciding if they want to come together and be a force, or if that’s not as important,” Nash noted.

“And I think right now they’ve been tested here whether they want to become that team that is tough and connected and competitive every single night. And that’s got to come from within that room.”

Normally reserved, Nets rookie head coach Steve Nash voiced his displeasure with Brooklyn’s performance in Motown Tuesday night. AP Photo by Carlos Osorio

 

Durant, who has already missed two full games and was pulled early from last Friday’s home loss to Toronto after it was discovered he had been in contact with a team employee who tested positive for coronavirus, will likely suit up Saturday night in Golden State against his former teammates.

But the Nets were doing fine with two stars instead of three when Irving took an unexpected hiatus from the team last month.

Brooklyn had won nine of 12 overall prior to its current funk, which is team’s longest since a four-game skid last February when Kenny Atkinson was still at the helm.

Whether its playing down to its competition or simply not coming out of the locker room with enough energy, Brooklyn is certainly not looking like a serious contender for anything other than owning one of the league’s most star-studded and high-priced rosters.

Though they are 6-0 against opponents that rank in the top four of their respetive conferences, the Nets are 8-12 vs. the rest of the league.

“We’re seeing it day-in and day-out where teams are coming in and punching us in the month early and we’re playing catch up and it happens to be against the guys with the least best records,” said Irving.

“And we gotta call it to what it is and we gotta fix that,” he added. “It takes a maturity that takes accountability and that takes a realization on what we need to do moving forward. Every day. Every day guys.”

The Nets will get another chance to prove they can light up the scoreboard and play a full 48 minutes Wednesday night against the visiting Pacers (12-12).

Another loss could drop the Nets back into the middle of the pack in the East playoff picture.

Even worse, it could make the nornally reserved and soft-spoken Nash more frustrated than he was Tuesday night in Motown.

“We can’t make excuses. You’ve just got to find a way to fight through. And like I’ve said to the guys, win, lose or draw I just want to feel them coming together and competing and while the other team is dealing I want to sense resistance,” he insisted.

“At the heart of everything — of all winning teams — is a bettering spirit. So, that is a big component of it. But the scenarios are not doing us any favors either.”

Neither are the Nets’ opponents, who view Brooklyn as one of the marquee teams to beat in the NBA.

That won’t last long if Brooklyn doesn’t find a way to play better against the teams its supposed to be looking down at in the standings.

“We can’t play people’s records or score, we just have to continue to play the game of basketball the right way,” said center DeAndre Jordan.


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