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Nets late comeback falls short in Brooklyn, get burned by Suns, 113-107

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Phoenix Suns v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Brooklyn brought the heat late but it wasn’t enough.

The Nets lost to the Suns Saturday night, 113-107, in Brooklyn. With the loss, the Nets falls to 14-6 on the young season but are now only 4-6 against above .500 teams (4-6). Despite the disappointing loss, it’s the Nets' best start after 20 games in franchise history. Only the 1975-76 New York Nets of the ABA had as many wins in the first 20.

It was Phoenix’s 16th straight win and put them within a game of the Western Conference-leading Warriors who they play next.

A grand total of 18,071 fans — 339 of them standing room — were on hand, the largest crowd ever for a Nets game in their nine-year history in Brooklyn. Barclays Center seats 17,732.

“We obviously started the game poorly. I don’t think we had the same level of hunger to start the game as we did in Boston. I think the turnovers were obviously a big part of that as well, so we found ourselves in a big hole and had some sloppy patches throughout the game,” said Steve Nash on the loss.

“We showed we can play when we had more of a sense of urgency, willing to play together and find solutions together. A great look at what it takes to play at the highest level in the league.”

It was a strange game of big leads and near comebacks from the opening minutes of the first quarter through the final minutes of the fourth, but Brooklyn never gained a lead.

Brooklyn entered the fourth trailing by 22 and by the final minute, the deficit was only seven points. Brooklyn gathered a series of defensive stops that woke up the Barclays Center crowd helping fuel the team’s late run. Although the Nets had their foot on the gas late, the Suns powered through the momentum change and sealed the deal with a six-point victory.

Kevin Durant finished the loss with a game-high 39 points on 13-of-28 shooting from the field and 4-of-7 from three-point range. In addition to Durant registering his third 30+ point game of the season, KD snagged nine rebounds, dished seven assists and recorded four steals in his game-high 45 minutes of play.

DeAndre’ Bembry was one of the few bright spots in the loss. Bembry displayed a solid all-around game, recording a season-high 18 points, nine rebounds and one assist in 35 minutes. LaMarcus Aldridge provided a scoring punch of 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting overall and 0-of-1 from deep in 28 minutes.

“He played incredible tonight — Playing defense, getting into the ball, cutting to the rim, making himself available, rebounding. We’re going to need that from him,” said Durant on Bembry’s performance. “He was a spark for us and he was one of the bright spots for us out there. Hopefully, he can continue to build on this and get better.”

James Harden struggled scoring the ball, He finished with only 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting from the field and 0-of-6 from three in 40 minutes. Despite a sluggish scoring performance, Harden finished a triple-double — dishing 14 assists and grabbing 13 rebounds.

“It was a tough night for him,” said Nash on Harden’s performance. “Some turnover issues and didn’t get a lot of good looks, but that’s a part of our growth too; is trying to figure out ways for him to be effective even if he’s not getting to the rim all night. Can we draw a crowd and generate offense on the second side. He can still rebound and make plays for others, but can we take advantage of those nights where he gets into the paint and it’s not all or nothing on him. That’s a part of our growth.”

Brooklyn concluded the loss shooting 50 percent from the field and 30.4 percent from three, significantly lower than their 37.1 percent season average. The major damage came off turnovers. Brooklyn coughed up a total of 20 turnovers, which translated to 20 points for Phoenix.

“They’re a very good defensive team so I don’t want to take any credit away, but a lot of the turnovers were just sloppy and were careless,” Nash said. “Against a team like that who has a good defense, you got to get as many shots at the basket as you can and not fuel their opportunities to create good looks. In general, they had better opportunities than we did and that’s compounded by the turnovers where they got out and ran.”

Brooklyn started Harden, Bembry, Durant, Aldridge and Patty Mills, the second time the team started the five-man group. Phoenix jumped out to a 21-8 lead, hitting six of their first 12 shots. Meanwhile, the Nets connected on four of their first nine shots but turned the ball over four times in the opening six minutes. The Nets’ offensive troubles lingered throughout the first, as they shot only 14.3 percent from three and coughed up eight turnovers (11 points for Phoenix) — to conclude the first frame trailing, 34-20.

Phoenix continued to burn the Nets on the offensive end, opening the second frame on a small 10-5 run. The Suns fueled their offense with a tight defense that gave Brooklyn problems getting into their offensive sets.

The boost Brooklyn was eyeing came in the final minutes of the second. The Nets forged a 15-0 run spanning nearly four minutes of play and were within five before Chris Paul scored the last five points of the quarter. When the halftime buzzer sounded, Brooklyn trailed 56-46.

In the quarter, Durant led the team with 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting from the field and Bembry contributed 10 points and five rebounds in 16 minutes of play. The team shot 50 percent from the field and 25 percent from 3-point range. Although the offense got going late, Brooklyn finished with 15 turnovers in the first half — translating to 17 points.

Phoenix Suns v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

After a strong ending to the second, Brooklyn couldn’t carry over their breakthrough offense into the third quarter, falling back into a double-digit deficit. Phoenix commanded the third quarter, growing their lead to a game-high 20 points (the same points allowed off turnovers) and hitting the final frame with a 90-72 lead.

The lead quickly ballooned to 22 leading to some rare boos from the Barclays Center crowd. Then, Brooklyn gathered momentum midway through the fourth and by the 4:54 mark, the deficit was trimmed to 10 points. In the last minute. Brooklyn twice cut the lead to six, but it was too late and they couldn’t finish off the comeback.

The Film Room

Don’t let the final score fool you. This was not a competitive contest.

A couple of things contributed to the loss. While LaMarcus Aldridge nearly single-handily spearheaded Brooklyn’s third-quarter run with a clinic in pick-and-pop midrange jumpers, the Nets decided to have him switch on pick-and-rolls and thereby ended up on an island against Devin Booker, which relinquished that advantage. When the Nets went small, they got smashed on the glass; going big allowed the Suns’ star guards to feast from their favorite spots.

But the biggest catalyst to Brooklyn’s subpar performance was those aforementioned turnovers. The Nets’ 20 giveaways tied a season-high and gave the Suns early momentum.

“I mean, we turned the ball over,” said DeAndre’ Bembry after the game. “So it kind of messed up our whole pace of everything because we’re not really turning the ball over at that high of a rate. So that kind of messed up our offense.”

Credit must be given to Phoenix’s defense, which threw two (and sometimes three) bodies Kevin Durant’s way when he posted up. Mikal Bridges was absolutely tremendous, picking off 7 steals by “gapping” off Brooklyn’s shooters to provide secondary help.

But Brooklyn was also responsible for the careless night with the rock. James Harden was particularly poor in this category, approaching near-quadruple double territory with 7 assists. With his driving lanes erased by the Suns' active defense and his three-point shot not falling, Harden channeled that frustration into lazy, hopeless passes like the one below. Fly balls are not a good idea around the life-sucking wingspan of Mikal Bridges.

Harden attributed the high turnover night to “a little bit of everything” after the game. “A little bit of rust, them, a combination of things. Spacing. Just wasn’t good. It wasn’t where we’re been these last few weeks,” Harden said.

He’s not wrong. Multiple things went into the tough night. But as the superstar point-guard of the team, he personally has to play better.

Harden streak ends

James Harden had a triple-double again Saturday, but the Nets lost, thus ending on of Harden’s longest streaks: consecutive wins in games where he posted a double-double. Before tonight, he had had 28 straight double-double wins, third all-time behind Billy Cunningham with 39 and Steph Curry with 34 and counting.

What’s next

The Nets will return to action on Tuesday, November 30 when the team hosts their crosstown rival, the Knicks at Barclays Center. The game is scheduled to tip at 7:30 p.m. ET.

For a different perspective on Saturday’s game, check out Bright Side Of The Sun — our sister site covering the Suns.