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Inexcusable: Knicks hand Nets third straight loss in lopsided match, 115-96

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re the Nets, you’ll take a two-point loss against the New Orleans Pelicans. You’ll take a six-point loss against the Golden State Warriors, too.

But a 19-point loss to the New York Knicks? Inexcusable. The final score was 115-96 Monday night at Madison Square Garden. The Nets and Knicks are both 2-5, as Brooklyn finds themselves with their first three-game losing streak of the season.

The one “excuse” the Nets had is that this was the second night of a back-to-back, third game in four nights and fourth game in six. And their early season star, Caris LeVert, simply did not have it.

Now, they’ll go on a three-game stretch against the Pistons, Rockets and 76ers... sigh.

This game looked awfully familiar to last night’s matchup against the Warriors. The Nets played well enough in the first quarter to keep their heads afloat, but a 26-7 Knicks run bridging the second to third quarter propelled New York to a 24-point lead.

And so, it was a game of climbing out of a hole... again. Brooklyn got within 10 but then started turning the ball over. Down 15, Spencer Dinwiddie missed Rondae Hollis-Jefferson on a pick-and-roll and the Knicks went up 17 with 4:09.

As Richard Jefferson said on the YES telecast: “That’s all she wrote.”

Enes Kanter and the Knicks destroyed the Nets inside the paint, where they out-rebounded Brooklyn by 21 on the night — including 44-22 after three quarters. Brooklyn’s best rebounder, Ed Davis had only logged eight minutes at that point.

D’Angelo Russell scored eight points in the first quarter and then didn’t attempt another shot until the third quarter. He took just five field goal attempts after the first quarter. That simply cannot happen.

LeVert had what was easily his worst game of the season... four points on 2-of-11 shooting, including 0-of-6 beyond the arc ... and a minus 23 +/- rating. He did have five assists and two steals, but Kenny Atkinson talked post-game about how much the Nets need him.

“This is the next level of becoming a great player in this league, to do it consistently,” Atkinson said. “And he’s done it for most of the season. He had a tough game [Monday]. We need him.

“We need him to be not good, we need him to be very, very good. So tonight was one of those nights. But those are the nights where somebody else has to step up. We need someone from the bench, or another starter to step up and take the torch.”

LeVert admitted the pressure of the burden is new to him.

“Yeah, for sure,” said LeVert, who beat the Knicks with a last-ditch shot in the Nets’ home opener. “That’s definitely an adjustment for me. But the great thing about the NBA is it’s not like football where you’ve got to wait a full week and think about it every single day.”

He also dismissed the schedule as an excuse.

“‘We’ve just got to be better. We’ve got to be more mature as a team. Despite our age, despite anything else. Three games in four days, that’s the NBA. We can’t put it on that. We’re going to have more of those this year and season’s to come. So we’ve got to learn how to be better in those situations, just prepare better mentally and physically.”

These type of things are on everybody — the coaching staff and the players. There needs to be some sense of game flow rather than everything premeditated by analytics and rotations. If Russell is hot, stick with him. If you’re getting absolutely battered on the boards, get some size/physicality out there.

Kanter was a Net killer yet again, finishing with 15 points and 15 rebounds in 26 minutes. Tim Hardaway Jr. torched the Nets with 25 points and eight assists.

For Brooklyn, Dinwiddie led the way with 17 points, while Hollis-Jefferson chipped in 16 points and seven rebounds. Caris LeVert had his worst game of the season with Frank Ntikilina covering him. He shot just 2-of-11 from the floor and was a minus-23 on the night.

After starting the game 4-of-6 from three, the Nets finished the night just 11-of-38 —29 percent— from deep and shot 42 percent overall. The Knicks, meanwhile, shot 49 percent with seven players in double figures.

“That’s the next step for a young team to be consistent every night, and playing a team like this the way we play the Warriors,” Ed Davis said. “Obviously they’re not one of the top teams in the league but they come out every night and they play hard. They played hard and they got the win and they beat us every way. We took this one on the chin.”

They’re young and (probably) tired, but sometimes you just beat yourself and the Nets did that Monday. The Knicks took complete advantage and they deserved this one in every which way.

Oh and the Nets are 0-5 in their last five games at MSG.

ENTERING TONIGHT

  • The Nets entered Monday shooting 41 percent from three-point, good for second best in the league.
  • Per John Schuhmann, Jarrett Allen ranks No. 1 in rim protection in the NBA.
  • Caris LeVert is currently one of nine players averaging 20+ points, 4+ rebounds and 4+ assists while shooting over 50 percent from the field. The other players include: LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Blake Griffin and Nikola Jokic.

Then tonight happened. Most of those stats are now inoperable.

RODI UPDATE

After some solid minutes in preseason and first few games of the regular season, Rodions Kurucs sprained his ankle, missing the last three games. Kenny Atkinson reported Monday that the 6’10” Latvian is back on the court.

“He worked out today, so made progress,” said Atkinson. “Listen, in the short stint we had him he showed some sign that he’s an NBA player and he can help us. So hoping to get him back soon. But like I said I know he worked out today, that’s a good sign for us going forward.”

DINWIDDIE’S KICKS

It’s Game 7 and we’ve been tracking Spencer Dinwiddie’s sneakers and the message they convey. For Monday’s battle against the Knicks, Dinwiddie paid tribute to Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing” movie celebrating its 30th anniversary. Lee, a Brooklyn native, is a die-hard Knicks fan.

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For a different perspective, head on over to Posting and Toasting, our sister site on SB Nation.

The Nets will face the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday.