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Nets fight right until the end but fall short to Golden State, 118-111

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NBA: Golden State Warriors at Brooklyn Nets Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — It was a loss, but man, the Brooklyn Nets fight until the very end.

Chalk it up as one of their ‘better’ losses.

With Kevin Durant sitting out with a sprained ankle, the Golden State Warriors (13-4) beat the Nets (6-10) in what should have been a completely one-sided battle, 118-111, Sunday evening in Brooklyn.

The defending champs made a point of showing their skills and toughness early, but the Nets fought in the second half and made the most of it.

“We were taken by the moment a bit. … They were frozen for some reason,” Kenny Atkinson said post-game. “[The Warriors] are a great team. Maybe that was it. But we were on our heels. That’s not us. That’s not how we play. I can’t explain what happened in the first half — why we came out so spiritless and [with a] lack of energy.”

That changed in the second half. After going down early in the third, the Nets finally woked up Specifically, they engineered a comeback that saw them take a 28-point deficit and chop it down to four in the final moments of the game.

"They were the aggressors. That's how they got back in the game,” said Steve Kerr of the tight finish.

Golden State started off with an 11-2 run that gave them a double-digit lead early. Brooklyn struggled on both sides of the ball while getting caught up in isolation ball.

To make matters worse, Spencer Dinwiddie was in foul trouble throughout the half, which forced Caris LeVert to man the point. He can do it but not naturally.

Did I mention they were playing the Warriors? It wasn’t the depleted Utah Jazz from Friday night.

Stephen Curry scored 22 of his 39 points in the first half, which helped the Warriors to a 22-point lead at halftime.

They took a 28-point lead in the third quarter, but the Nets didn’t quit.

The message at half? “Play harder,” Caris LeVert said.

The Nets made a push after scoring 42 points in the third quarter and cut it to 14 entering the fourth, while Curry was on the bench in foul trouble for an extended period of time.

Brooklyn kept grinding and took advantage of Golden State’s small lineup and got it within eight with six minutes remaining.

Then they got it down to six and then four. It was 11-1 run to start the fourth. They fought and fought and fought, coming up with offensive rebounds and hitting big 3-pointers late.

Jarrett Allen had one of the comeback’s big shots, a skyhook with 6:43 left, brought the Nets to within eight.

Fatigue began to set in for Golden State and then Steph Curry fouled out with three minutes left. There was hope, as the Nets cut the deficit down to four in the final moments after Allen Crabbe nailed two consecutive 3-pointers.

By then, it was too late.

Klay Thompson hit a key 3-pointer late to give Golden State some breathing room. Following a stop, Thompson and Shaun Livingston put the Nets out late at the free throw line.

The Nets struggled at the line: 27-of-39. It wasn’t the reason why they lost, but those are points you need when playing a team like Golden State.

Atkinson, asked about what drove his team’s comeback, had a simple response.

“Our spirit. I really can’t explain what happened in the first half. Granted, [the Warriors] are a great team, but I thought we were kind of frozen by the moment. The second half, we competed much better. I thought Jarrett Allen came in and gave us a guy that could roll to the rim, and that opened it up a little bit for us.”

Crabbe led the way for Brooklyn with a season-high 25 points on a season-high six 3-pointers. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson picked it up in the second half and finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds. DeMarre Carroll chipped in 15 points and 11 rebounds, while Spencer Dinwiddie continued his solid play with 21 points and eight assists. Dinwiddie is now averaging 20 points and eight assists filling in for D’Angelo Russell.

Caris LeVert, meanwhile, had one of his better games with 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting.

The Nets shot 36 percent on the night and 16-of-48 from 3-point range. I repeat: 48 3-point attempts! That’s 33 percent. the Nets had shot better than 40 percent from three in both their win over Utah and their loss to Boston.

The Nets will face the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday and then the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday. For the Nets, you take this game for what it is.

They played hard until the very end despite missing players, despite playing the defending champs and despite trailing by 28 in the second half.

DINWIDDIE’S 3-POINT SHOOTING

Spencer Dinwiddie leads the team in 3-point field goal percentage, shooting a team-high 44.6 percent this season. Since joining the Nets in December of last season, he’s shooting 40 percent from three (73 games) after shooting 17 percent in 46 games as a Piston.

For a different perspective, head over to Golden State of Mind.

NEXT UP: AT CLEVELAND, WEDNESDAY NIGHT