Atlanta – In the Nets’ biggest game of the season, Kevin Durant gave them the biggest scoring night of his career. That is not enough yet.
The Nets’ 122-115 loss to the Hawks – trailing by 55 points to Durand – pushed them to ninth place in the Eastern Conference. Being cold in the worst conditions during the regular season could have made life much harder in the playoffs.
Despite the doubles and blitz, he shot 19 out of 28, capturing seven rebounds and hitting 8 out of 10 deep. He had the third 50-point game of the season, the high of Nate and his illustrious career in one season. And the nets wasted it.
With Nets (40-38) playing without Seth Curry, Bruce Brown and Goran Trojic – not to mention Ben Simmons and Joe Harris – Durant had traffic on some routes and received no help. Kyrie Irving had 31 points and six assists, but took only 12 of 32. No other net has been able to double this number.
Brooklyn fell to ninth place with four games on the slate, one game behind the Hawks – winners of five consecutive games – and only advanced beyond Charlotte by tiebreaker. And they fell out of the double-elimination situation, only need one win to advance to the single-elimination of the playoff spot and have to win twice to advance.
The play-off starts on April 12th, but if it starts now, they will host the 10th-ranked Hornets, who must win to avoid the infamous non-play-off season. Even if successful, they will get a date with 7-8 tilt losers (Cleveland or Atlanta) who will have to win again to get the final seed in the East.
It’s hard to overstate how important Saturday is. The Nets were well aware of coming in, and were still outscored 37-20 in the second quarter, never taking the lead again. They went into the fourth one point, but never on the pump.
“I think it’s a high level of focus, intention and goal and starting the game with the necessary energy and focus. If we do that, I feel good on our team,” Steve Nash said earlier. “So this is a great game. But try to play as well as you can. So, I expect our guys to be focused, go out and play and have fun, really like to play games that mean something.
The game means a lot; But it is unlikely the Nets had much fun.
With the backcourt compressed, the Nets used their team record for the 42nd different starting lineup of the season. Durant’s nine quick points gave them an 11-2 lead within two minutes. But it did not last.
A steal from Andre Drummond and the Dungeon Nets led 34-29, but went 14 unanswered points – most of the runs without Durant were on the ground and the formation was under attack. Before the Irving wave could stop, the Nets trailed by 43-34, but it was too low, too late.
The Nets went 57-50 on Durant’s free throw, with 1:26 left in the half; But with 0.8 seconds left to enter the locker room by 15pm they gave up the last eight points of 3-point Danilo Calinari, the biggest deficit of the night.
Durant scored 19 in the third quarter to try to get the Nets back, and Irving’s acrobatic loop returned to 92-87 with 7.5 seconds left. But Trey Young (36 points, a team record) broke the defense to beat the buzzer.
A durant pull-up made it 107-103, and after a mistake by Young, Johnson made one of the boards to pull the nets in the remaining three at 3:14.
Irving took a float bank shot to reduce the lead to 107-106 with 2 ¹ / ₂ minutes remaining, but Bokton Boktanovic converted it to three and reduced Yang’s hover to 11 with 5:31 at 111-106. The Nets never came close to three, and Irving missed 3 in 44 seconds.
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