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Brooklyn’s slide continues in Sacramento

Slumping Nets drop season-high sixth straight to Kings

February 3, 2022 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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Kyrie Irving insisted that the Brooklyn Nets couldn’t afford to be “fragile” during their extended losing streak without injured superstar Kevin Durant.

They weren’t until the fourth quarter Wednesday night in Sacramento.

The Kings outscored the short-handed Nets by 14 points over the final 12 minutes to pull out a 112-101 victory in front of 13,153 fans at the Golden 1 Center, handing Brooklyn its season-high sixth consecutive defeat.

Irving, who finished with 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting, was asked if the Nets (29-22) were concerned with their sinking status in the Eastern Conference standings, where they’ve gone from first place on Jan. 22 to the sixth slot, just one above being relegated to the NBA’s play-in tournament.

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“We can’t lose confidence. We can’t be fragile,” Irving said after Tuesday’s loss at league-leading Phoenix.

“There’s gonna be runs, highs, lows, so just being able to be resilient in that is just our focus.”

Brooklyn displayed the necessary resiliency through most of Wednesday’s contest against the Kings (19-34). The Nets led by eight points at the half and were up 77-67 with just under six minutes left in the third quarter after an 11-foot jumper by Blake Griffin.

James Harden only managed four points in Brooklyn’s season-high sixth straight loss in Sacramento Wednesday night. AP Photo by Luis Villegas

But Sacramento, which snapped a season-high seven-game slide of its own, cut the deficit to three by the end of the period and rolled all over the Nets with a 29-15 advantage in the fourth.

“The play just dropped significantly in the second half,” Nets head coach Steve Nash admitted. “We just didn’t make shots. We looked tired. It was one of those nights.”

Nic Claxton scored a career-high 23 points, James Johnson added 18 off the bench and Patty Mills finished with 14 for Brooklyn, which will be in Utah on Friday night trying to end its longest losing streak since dropping seven in a row from Dec. 26, 2019 to Jan. 7, 2020.

Harrison Barnes had 19 points and Davion Mitchell and Buddy Hield added 18 apiece for Sacramento, which won for the first time since Jan. 14 vs. Houston.

James Harden played his second straight game since returning from a two-game absence due to a hand strain, but “The Beard” only managed four points on 2-of-11 shooting, including an 0-for-5 effort from 3-point range.

Harden, who is also nursing a sore hamstring, did hand out 12 assists and grab seven rebounds for the Nets, who will be without Durant for at least another month and are also missing Joe Harris and LaMarcus Aldridge due to ankle injuries.

“Keep chipping away. That’s all you can do. Come together and play better,” Harden said of Brooklyn’s ongoing malaise.

“We’ve got to find a way to get out of this as a group. … We’ve done too much talking. We’ve got to go out there and do it.”

The Nets have dropped from first in the Eastern Conference to sixth since Kevin Durant went down with a knee injury. AP Photo by Noah K. Murray

NOTHING BUT NET: Following Friday night’s game in Utah, the Nets will visit Denver Sunday before returning to Barclays Center to host Boston next Tuesday. … Brooklyn hasn’t won since Jan. 21 at San Antonio. … Harden’s four points were his fewest since he managed five against Chicago last May 15.

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