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Doncic, Mavs hand depleted Nets their 4th straight loss, 123-111

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Brooklyn Nets v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

New year, same (depleted) Nets...

The Nets added Garrett Temple (right knee contusion) to the already packed out injury list, one that includes Kyrie Irving, Caris LeVert, Kevin Durant (obviously), Nicolas Claxton and David Nwaba, who the Nets eleased earlier in the day.

Still, the games must go on. And they, too, played a depleted Mavericks team missing Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. and lost 123-111, Thursday night at American Airlines Arena. The Nets have now lost four straight games and five of the last six, dropping to 16-17 on the season.

It’s the first time they’ve been below .500 since November 22. Fortunately for them, LeVert will return to the lineup on Saturday, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported after the game.

Given all the injuries, it feels preposterous that the Nets are even competing in these games. However, given the culture they’ve built, one that highlights Kenny Atkinson’s strengths in maximizing talent, it doesn’t seem so crazy after all. But you can only do so much when six players are out and those who are left are open playing bigger minutes than expected.

The game was another stalemate through three quarters, the teams tied at 93 apiece with the two stars of the night, Luka Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie sitting due to foul trouble.

With both teams being depleted, it was crucial Brooklyn kept their heads afloat until Dinwiddie and the starters could return. Rodions Kurucs started in place of Garrett Temple and looked like Rodi again, providing a spark on both sides while chasing after 50/50 balls. He finished with eight points, three rebounds and assists in 17 minutes.

Dzanan Musa came off the bench after getting ripped apart by Kenny Atkinson for a missed defensive assignment early, and scored five straight straight points en route to a 14-point night for him. Behind Musa’s lead off the bench, the Nets put themselves in a position to win this game.

But Luka and the 22-12 Mavs got the last laugh.

It was a four-point game until Doncic got hot and put Dallas up by seven with less than six minutes remaining — the largest lead of the night. Before that, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot had held the 20-year-old Slovenian (mostly) in check.

Dorian Finney-Smith added a three of his own, Luka dropped home a paint bucket and suddenly Brooklyn’s deficit was 12 with 3:48 left. It was a 13-3 run for Dallas, one in which the Nets simply couldn’t get a stop and couldn’t buy a bucket on the other end.

A script we’ve read before and dreaded it.

Down 11 with three minutes left, Dinwiddie did all he could to get the Nets back, but Dwight Powell put home two straight buckets to put the Mavericks up 15. At that point, the Nets had made just three shots in their last 10 possessions.

Doncic finished the night with 31 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists. The Mavericks tore the Nets up all night, shooting 50 percent from the field and hitting 18-of-39 from three (46 percent).

Dinwiddie led the Nets with 19 points, but it was a concerted team effort that propelled Brooklyn’s offense with seven players scoring in double figures.

The Nets had their opportunities. They led by 10 in the first half and took control following a 15-2 run, but they closed out the half with just a five-point lead. Suddenly, the five-point lead turned into a tie, then the tied turned into a five-point deficit.

All in the matter of minutes.

The script reads similar, and there’s only so much you can say when a team is so depleted. That being said, the season is growing older and the losses are mounting. The schedule is getting tougher and, boy, would it be premature to over-analyze the standings, but with a depleted team comes a burnt out roster. Poor play ensues, adjustments are made. Guys are playing out of position. Once 16-13 with a smile on the face, the Nets now face adversity under .500.

This is what it takes to ask the two things everybody wants to know:

  1. When will Caris LeVert return? (Editor’s note: 25 minutes after writing this, Woj dropped a bomb on us.)

2. What is going on with Kyrie Irving?

MUSA’S RESOLVE

Dzanan Musa, the Nets youngest player, played only nine games in December with four DNP-CD’s. In the others, he averaged 8.8 minutes and only 2.2 points, shooting 28 percent overall and 16.7 percent from deep.

After one of those DNPs, on December 21 vs. Atlanta, Musa gathered a Nets basketball operations staffer and without showering or changing anything but his jersey starting shooting at the far end of the practice court inside Barclays, one three after another, not smiling, not talking. We happened to be walking by and tweeted this out.

Whether he was angry at not playing or showing resolve, it didn’t matter. He was out there as the crowds filed out of the arena. He got his chance Thursday in Dallas (vs. his Balkan rival Luka Doncic) and played well, garnering 14 points, hitting 6-of-7 overall and 2-of-3 from (very) deep. We’ll see how he does next game. He’s got plenty of time.

LUWAWU-CABARROT CONTINUES HOT STREAK

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot has made multiple 3-pointers in four straight games after not doing so in any of his first seven games of the season.

He was 2-of-3 from deep last night, and 9-of-15 over his last four contests. That’s 60%, best on team over that stretch. He’s now shooting 41.7 percent from deep with Brooklyn.

CHANGE OF THE GUARDS...

With Garrett Temple out due to a right knee contusion, the Nets were forced to change their starting lineup for the first time in 21 games! Kenny Atkinson started Rodions Kurucs for the first time this season. The last time the Nets had the same starters for that many consecutive games came in 2007-08, when Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson, Josh Boone and Sean Williams started 22 straight games.

Brooklyn’s starting five of Dinwiddie, Temple, Harris, Prince and Allen has played 343 minutes in the last 21 games. No other five-man unit in the NBA has played more minutes than Brooklyn’s starting five since November 16.

JOE TSAI, OLIVER WEISBERG IN ATTENDANCE

Continuing his precedent breaking, Joe Tsai —and the Nets alternate governor and interim CEO Oliver Weisberg— were both on hand Thursday in Dallas. Neither Mikhail Prokhorov nor Bruce Ratner attended many road games as owners. Tsai has previously attended Nets games at Golden State.

Weisburg runs Tsai’s Hong Kong-based Blue Pool Capital, splitting his time between there and Brooklyn. No word whether Tsai met with Mark Cuban of the Mavericks while in town.

NETS CUT DAVID NWABA

The Nets made two roster moves Thursday, waiving David Nwaba, out with a season-ending Achilles injury, and signing Justin Anderson, a 6’6” swingman, out the G League, to a 10-day contract. Teams can officially sign 10-days on Sunday.

You can read our full story here.

The Nets can’t officially sign Anderson, a teammate of Joe Harris at Virginia, until Sunday when teams can begin to sign 10-days. One positive: the last time the Nets signed a G League player from a team other than their affiliate was in 2016 when they called up Spencer Dinwiddie.

The 10-day (which can be extended another 10 days) will give the Nets brass time to consider whether to sign Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to a standard contract or make another move as the trade deadline approaches.

Anderson should give them another 3-point shooter which is something they could use right about now.

RIP DAVID STERN

Former NBA commissioner David Stern passed away on Wednesday and we took a look at how great he really was — and how he helped the Nets get to Brooklyn back in 1996.

Net Income writes... “At every step of the way on the Nets journey to Brooklyn, David Stern was there, pushing, guiding, welcoming. Although Bruce Ratner, then Mikhail Prokhorov executed the plan, it was Stern who saw the Nets future in New York.

Starting in 1996, when he subtly engineered a change in territorial rights permitting the Nets to ultimately make the move through 2012 when they opened their Brooklyn arena under the league’s first foreign owner, Stern was there.”

The Brooklyn Nets let out a statement, sending condolences to David’s family.

The Brooklyn Nets organization mourns the passing of our dear friend, mentor and former leader, NBA Commissioner Emeritus David Stern. More people today love the game of basketball than ever before and that is in large part to David’s vision. He grew the game beyond our borders, reaching across the globe, and ultimately developed hundreds of millions of fans. We are profoundly grateful for David’s dedication to the league and our organization.

We extend our deepest condolences to David’s wife Dianne, sons Andrew and Eric, and the entire Stern family. David will always be our inspiration, our changemaker, and most importantly, our champion.

Rest in peace, David Stern.

We wrote about Stern’s vision in getting the Nets to Brooklyn.

For a different perspective, head on over to Mavs Moneyball, out Mavericks sister site on SB Nation.

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Next up: Raptors on Saturday, 6:00 PM ET!