Shorthanded Nets fall apart in third quarter
Squander early lead in 114-103 loss to Raptors in Tampa
For one quarter Wednesday night, the Brooklyn Nets didn’t appear to miss Kevin Durant or James Harden at all.
Then they just started missing everything.
Joe Harris’ red-hot start catapulted Brooklyn to an early lead before reality set in and the re-located Toronto Raptors ran away with a 114-103 victory at Tampa’s Amalie Arena.
“It’s obviously a difficult situation, but a lot of teams are playing short-handed. You’ve got to play with the guys who are there,” noted Harris, who knocked down his first four 3-pointers to spearhead the Nets to a 36-23 lead after one quarter.
“At the start of the second half, we let them go on a few different runs.”
Brooklyn’s problems actually began a bit earlier than that as Toronto outscored the Nets by 11 points in the second quarter, then pulled away by putting up 38 third-quarter points.
Pascal Siakam scored 27 points for the Raptors, who won their fourth straight game.
“The chemistry built throughout the game,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. “I thought our guys did a really good job of adjusting. Obviously, we were creating a lot of good shots. I think it was a good step forward.”
The Nets did manage to pull within five points late in the fourth quarter, but Toronto, playing in Florida rather than Canada due to COVID-19 international travel restrictions, responded with a 10-0 run to settle matters.
“It was tough after a back-to-back, short-handed,” ceded Harris, referring to Brooklyn’s 134-129 win in New Orleans on Tuesday.
“But you can’t use that as an excuse because everybody is dealing with the same sort of circumstances here at the end of the year.”
Despite the loss, its fourth in the past seven contests, Brooklyn remained one-half game behind Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia.
But news of the Sixers’ loss to Phoenix Wednesday didn’t make it go down any easier for head coach Steve Nash, who saw his team make just 13-of-41 3-pointers on a night that Durant (thigh contusion) and Harden (hamstring) weren’t available.
“We came out flat I thought to start the third,” said Nash, who intimated that Durant might return as soon as this weekend after revealing Tuesday that Harden’s stay on the injured list would be extended.
“Gave up 31 points in the first kind of seven minutes of the half, which is too much obviously. … Couldn’t make shots. Open looks. They fought, they battled, they tried, but just didn’t have that sharpness. You could see it just wasn’t as fluid and accurate as we normally are.”
Kyrie Irving did his best to keep the Nets (39-20) in the game, putting up 28 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and handing out eight assists.
But the Raptors (25-34), still on the outside looking in at the playoff picture, overwhelmed Brooklyn when it mattered most.
“They came out with energy, had good pace and offense, and we weren’t ready,” said Bruce Brown after amassing 21 points and 14 rebounds for his second double-double in as many nights.
“And they executed and we didn’t execute on the offensive end, and didn’t communicate on the defensive. So they took advantage of that.”
Harris finished with 14 points and Landry Shamet added 10 for the Nets, who will be back in Brooklyn Friday night to host the Boston Celtics.
NOTHING BUT NET: While Brooklyn fans are doubtlessly checking the standings and out-of-town scoreboard to keep up with the Sixers, Harris doesn’t believe he and his teammates are as interested in grabbing the No. 1 seed for next month’s playoffs. “It’s not really discussed much at all, to be honest, from the coaches or the players,” he said. “I mean, our thought process is just worrying about each game that we have, not looking too far ahead. As long as we’re playing well, hopefully all that stuff kind of takes care of itself.” … Blake Griffin played his first set of back-to-backs as a Net and contributed nine points, four rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot in 19 minutes. … After hosting Boston on Friday night, the Nets will welcome the Phoenix Suns to Brooklyn for a Sunday matinee.
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