Durant, Nets come up short in Big D
Superstar sparks late rally but misses key free throw
Kevin Durant’s first missed free throw in 63 attempts cost the Brooklyn Nets a chance at overtime in Dallas Monday night.
Durant scored 26 points but his shocking failure at the charity stripe with 5.6 ticks on the clock ultimately ended Brooklyn’s bid for a season-high third straight win as the Mavericks held on for a 96-94 victory in front of 20,011 fans at American Airlines Center.
“I gotta make that. That’s the game,” Durant lamented before unleashing a string of expletives. “I went through my whole routine, but I should have shot it stronger. It sucks.”
Tabbed the Eastern Conference Player of the Week earlier Monday after pacing the Nets (4-7) to a 3-1 performance that saw him average 30.8 points per contest, Durant went 10-of-20 from the floor to go with four assists, four rebounds and a pair of steals.
The 12-time NBA All-Star and two-time Finals MVP helped Brooklyn erase most of a late 10-point deficit before being sent to the line by Reggie Bullock with the Nets down 96-93.
Durant knocked down the first free throw, but the second rimmed out, leaving Brooklyn to hope for a carom on what was designed to be their best player’s second straight miss.
The ball bounded off the front rim and was grabbed by Royce O’Neale, who threw it into the hands of Dallas’ Dwight Powell as the clock expired, leaving Durant and the Nets to ponder what could have been.
“I was just trying to see how much time was left on the clock,” O’Neale lamented of his errant pass. “We’re headed in the right direction. There were a lot of great things (in this game) that we can build on.”
The Nets had been 2-0 since the suspension of mercurial point guard Kyrie Irving, who was punished last week for his promotion of an antisemitic documentary.
Cam Thomas scored 19 points off the bench, O’Neal had 15 and Joe Harris finished with 14 for Brooklyn, which will return to Barclays Center Wednesday night to host the arch rival New York Knicks.
“We just have to continue to play the we we’re playing,” said Harris, who had one of the Nets’ season-high 13 steals. “We’re really starting to pull together. Everybody is being disciplined.”
Luka Doncic had a game-high 36 points to go with six rebounds and six assists for the Mavericks (6-3), who won their season-high fourth in a row. Doncic is the first NBA player since Wilt Chamberlain to put up at least 30 points in nine straight games to begin a season.
Nic Claxton put up 10 points and a game-high 14 rebounds for the Nets, who will be without Irving for at least five games as he continues to fulfill the requirements for his reinstatement.
“We put ourselves again in a position to win,” said interim head coach Jacques Vaughn, who replaced Steve Nash at the helm last week.
“The effort the guys gave tonight should be commended,” Vaughn added. “At the end of the day, we didn’t win the game, but we played the right way.
Durant extended his franchise-record streak of consecutive games with at least 25 points to start a season to 11.
But his first miss from the free-throw line since Oct. 26 proved costly for a Nets team that is still trying to find its stride during what has been a turbulent early season.
“I’ve got to make those free throws,” Durant reiterated.
NOTHING BUT NET: After hosting the Knicks in Brooklyn on Wednesday, the Nets will embark on a four-game West Coast swing, beginning Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles vs. the Clippers. Brooklyn will visit the L.A. Lakers on Sunday before heading to Sacramento on Tuesday and Portland on Nov. 17. … Ben Simmons made his return to action after missing the previous four games with a sore ankle. The versatile swingman finished with two points, three boards and two assists in 16 minutes off the bench. “I’ve got no pain,” Simmons reported after the game. “I’ve gotta keep working.” … The Nets fell to 2-2 under Vaughn. … Yuta Watanabe left the game in the second quarter for Brooklyn with a sprained left ankle.
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