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MLK DAY: Nets drop 4th straight as Kyrie Irving sits against Philadelphia, 117-111

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Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

You have got to be Furkan kidding me!

The Nets were involved in another tight game in the final minutes, and the musical accompaniment sounds much like a broken record. They blew an 11-point lead as Philadelphia went on a 15-0 run bridging the third to fourth quarter, forcing them to fight an uphill battle in the final stages.

As a result, they went scoreless for nearly four minutes late in the fourth and failed to take a lead. Al Horford made them pay with a three of his own, breaking Philly’s 5-minute dry spell. It was 108-104, 76ers lead. The Nets fought and brought it within two, less than 30 seconds left.

Philly came down. Ben Simmons was nearly unstoppable all night, tying his career-high with 34 points, to go along with 12 rebounds, 12 assists and five steals on 12-of-14 shooting. It wasn’t him who hit the dagger, though.

It was Furkan Korkmaz.

The Nets went to a zone during the most critical possession of the night. They switched well and did everything they needed to, but Korkmaz nailed a tough 3-pointer to give the Sixers a 5-point lead with 23.6 seconds left.

Spencer Dinwiddie hit a 3-pointer from 31-feet out, but that was it. Philly hit all of their free throws the rest of the way and the Nets failed to score after that point.

The Nets have now lost their fourth straight game, 117-111. They’re 2-11 in the last 13 games and 1-2 against Philadelphia this year — all three games Philly played without Joel Embiid. The Nets are now 18-24 in a free fall.

Kyrie Irving didn’t play. He was a late scratch due to hamstring tightness. He went for healthy to questionable to out in the two hours before tip. Kenny Atkinson said the hamstring began acting up after Friday night’s game the decision to put him in street clothes was precautionary. It was Irving’s 27th missed game. And so, it was back to the gritty guys who kept the Nets afloat while he was out.

Sigh.

Much like their loss against Philly on Wednesday, the Nets couldn’t close out quarters. They led by as many as 11 in the second quarter, but Philly closed out the half on a 9-3 run and trailed by only four. In the third quarter, the Nets led 89-79 with 3:11 left, but Philly cut right into it and finished out on an 8-0 run, trailing 91-90 entering the fourth quarter.

This trickled into the fourth quarter, where the Nets turned the ball over 10 times for a total of 22 on the night. They also missed 12 free throws, another recurring theme with this team.

The bench was the main reason Brooklyn even had a shot. They dropped 50 points with 15 points coming from Nicolas Claxton and 12 points coming from Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. both season highs. In fact, late in the second, Atkinson went with the team’s youth movement: Dzanan Musa and Claxton, both age 20; Rodions Kurucs, 21; Luwawu-Cabarrot 24 and LeVert 25. The Nets, in fact, had their biggest lead —12— with those guys on the floor.

LeVert scored 16 off the bench, but he was just 3-of-12 from the field after the first quarter.

Spencer Dinwiddie led the way with 23 points on a poor 6-of-17 shooting, while Jarrett Allen finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds, his best rebounding game in the last month. 15 games. He is again averaging 10 boards a game now for the season.

CLAXTON RISING

Claxton proved for a second straight game that he can play in the NBA. Over the last two games, games without DeAndre Jordan, the 6’11 3/4” (call it 7-foot, why don’t we) has scored 29 points in 36 minutes, shooting 13-of-20, including his first three Monday night. He also grabbed 10 rebounds, blocked three shots (all vs. Philly) and added three assists, turning the ball over once.

His teammates reacted well to his three...

Later, however, the air went out of the building when after he attempted to block a shot by Ben Simmons, he fell hard to the floor and for what seemed like forever, lay motionless.

He got up and after being tended to by trainer Sebastian Poirier and sports medicine director Les Gelis, he stayed on the bench and eventually returned to the game.

Post-game, Atkinson once again talked about how good his 20-year-old big can be.

“He’s got big-time talent. Big-time hunger. Wants to be great — and that’s a lot of guys in this league, but I think he’s got something else in there. He’s got a knack,” Atkinson talking about hsi basketball IQ. “[With] his athleticism, he could hang with a team like [the Sixers]. It’s his strength — we saw on the court, he’s definitely gotta get stronger. But once he gets stronger — and he can shoot the three. That bodes well for us in the future.”

As for Claxton, he boiled things down to “my name was called. I produced.”

The rookie’s back-to-back also gave Spencer Dinwiddie a chance to crow. Earlier in the season, he had called Claxton “the second-most talented person on the team,” which produced some giggles considering the roster.

“Y’all flamed me when I said [that],” Dinwiddie said. “Fired my ass all the way up on social media.

“He’s extremely talented. Obviously, he’s still a little bit raw, he’s extremely young as well. He’s not our second-best player: That would be Kyrie. Please everybody don’t go crazy on me again. But he has a very bright future and has a chance to do some very special things.”

A TIME FOR ASSESSMENT

This hasn’t been an easy time for the Nets. They haven’t gotten a “feel good” win in what feels like a long time, and the off-court stuff surrounding Kyrie Irving isn’t helping. Everything he says or does is under a microscope. Everything the Nets do is under the spotlight.

They’re six games below .500 and LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are coming to town on Thursday. We have no idea what Kyrie’s status is.

Strange ‘Furkan days in Brooklyn.

MLK DAY

As Kenny Atkinson said before the game: It’s an “honor” and Dr. King was an “American hero.” Garrett Temple spoke to fans before the game.

Barclays Center was home to another part of the league’s MLK Day commemoration. Adam Silver joined Joe and Clara Wu Tsai and spoke of Dr. King’s legacy.

KYRIE IRVING HAS BECOME THE NBA’S BIGGEST VILLAIN

There’s no doubt that Kyrie Irving says some questionable things during questionable times, sometimes in questionable ways. I personally didn’t think his quote in needing “one or two more pieces” was appropriate for a team leader. He also used his situation in an analogy with Martin Luther King, which I’ll let you all be the judge of that.

But one story - one very specific story - has been getting negative attention for literally no reason at all. Michael Lee, writing for The Athletic, wrote a story about how Irving was in the locker room playfully talking with his teammates about how the last player to bring a championship to the Nets organization was Julius Erving. Erving, Irving. Whatever. He was just having fun.

Somehow, the narrative shifted and some media outlets and NBA fans are using it as a sign of some deeper “issue.” Let’s clear the air here, because some of the stuff that’s going on with Kyrie this year feels like bullying. Don’t even think to say “New York” media, because it IS NOT the New York media nor Brooklyn’s beat writers that have been knocking him down for literally no reason.

Here’s what I tweeted in regards to all of this.

The author of the story, Michael Lee, cleared the air for those who needed it cleared or were willing to set aside their bias...

He isn’t perfect. He makes mistakes when he talks, and speaking personally, I think he can handle things in a better way. But THIS. This is too much. Michael Lee was not painting him in a bad light in his piece. Why should everybody else?

For a different perspective, head on over to Liberty Ballers, our Sixers sister site on SB Nation.

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Next up: Lakers at Nets on Thursday, 8:00 PM ET.