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Nets fall short in chippy final minute, lose to Sixers, 110-102

Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

No competitive fire lost between these two Atlantic Division rivals.

The Nets were defeated by the Sixers, 110-102, at Barclays Center Thursday night. With the loss, Brooklyn falls to 23-10 on the season at 10-7 at “The Clays.”

“We weren’t very sharp tonight. Obviously the shot discrepancy — 110-81 — shots at the basket. We had 17 turnovers and 14 in the first half. We had plenty of opportunities when we were up five to get it to eight, ten, twelve and turn it over, three-ball, foul and stuff like that,” said Steve Nash on the 110-102 loss. “We just weren’t sharp. We didn’t play our best and we got a lot of things to clean up. It happens and we’ll just keep improving.”

The game was knotted up throughout the fourth but Philadelphia found their shooting touch late. The Sixers went on a 9-2 run to take a 106-99 lead heading into the final two minutes of action. The deficit grew to eight points hitting the final minute of play and after Seth Curry missed a right-wing three dagger, the door cracked open for Brooklyn.

James Harden hit a pair of free throws on the other end to cut the deficit to six but Joel Embiid snagged an offensive rebound and after a small exchange with Kevin Durant the Sixers’ big put the nail in the win with free throws.

“If you’ve been watching Joel and I play against each other, it’s been like that every game. Even in the All-Star game. We just respect each other so much that that natural competitive fire comes out,” said Durant on the jawing between him and Embiid. “It’s the name of the game and letting him know we come with the same energy like the energy that they played with tonight. We love competition and it’ll only make you better.”

The jawing didn’t stop there. After the final buzzer sounded, it was shades of December 16 but in reverse. Embiid mimicked Durant’s “go home” (or alternately, GTHOH) gesture from that game, a Nets win, resulting in a semi-heated dust-up near Philadelphia’s bench. After things dispersed, Durant continued jawing and the Nets went back to the locker room with no pleasantries or handshakes exchanged.

“Nah. Hell no,” said Durant if anything Embiid said crossed the line. “He really didn’t say nothing. I was just turnt up. No matter what we down eight, ten and they got the game in control so we still let them know we’re still here, I guess. He didn’t say nothing that crossed the line.

“We all respect each other out there. We all respect this team and I respect all these players on this team and vice versa. That’s how we play.”

Durant finished the loss with his 14th 30+ point game of the season, concluding the contest with 33 points on 13-of-24 shooting from the field and 3-of-8 from three-point range. The Nets superstar grabbed six rebounds and dished four assists as well in his 38 minutes of play. He is now tied with LeBron James for the league-lead in 30+ point games.

“Great,” said Nash on Durant’s play coming back from a 12-day layoff. “He missed some shots we’re used to him making but as the game went on, he shot the ball very well. I thought overall, that’s pretty impressive after a break to play the way he did. I think for him, he’ll still take him a couple games to get him back to his level.”

Harden followed with his sixth triple-double of the season: 33 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists in a game-high 40 minutes of action. The Nets point guard is tied for the second-most triple-doubles recorded in the league. He and Durant became the third set of teammates to each score 30+ points in a single game this season for Brooklyn.

LaMarcus Aldridge and Nic Claxton also finished in double-figures. Claxton, who continues to gain confidence on the hardwood was the only other Net to finish in double-figures. The young big tallied 10 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 33 minutes. It was his fourth double-digit scoring game in the last five. Aldridge totalled 12 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in 27 minutes of action. The other six Nets that saw action all combined for only 14 points. A poor showing by the bench despite the Nets having 16 players available.

Patty Mills had a tough game, shooting 2-of-10, including 1-of-8 from three.

Joel Embiid feasted for 34 points, seven rebounds, one assist and a block in 32 minutes, but it was the turnovers that hurt most, playing a huge role in the loss. Brooklyn coughed up a total of 18 turnovers — 14 in the first half — that translated to 15 points for Philadelphia.

“I’m sure some of them were good defensive plays but there were a lot of sloppy turnovers,” Nash said. “A lot of one that our guys would want back. Just needless and unforced errors.”

The first quarter was filled with runs. The Nets put out their 13th different starting lineup of the season — Harden, Mills, Durant, Claxton and Aldridge. The new five didn’t get off to a strong start and the rust was evident. The lineup shot 1-of-6 and forfeited a 10-0 run early, leaving the Sixers with an early 10-2 lead and Nash to call a timeout less than two minutes into the contest.

Brooklyn’s big lineup ultimately found the needed spacing and responded with a 14-2 run on seven straight made shots to take a 23-22 lead with 4:45 left. The going got bumpy for the Nets to end the frame. Beyond Embiid getting hot from the field, Philadelphia got out in transition and controlled the final four minutes, capitalizing off the six Brooklyn turnovers to boost an extended 16-9 run and snag a 39-31 lead after one.

The Sixers continued their assault on the boards and down low, resulting in plenty of second-chance opportunities. Brooklyn weathered the storm well and started to get over the hump midway through the second, forging an extended 15-4 run to knot the score at 47 with 2:35 remaining. Harden delivered a late five-point scoring punch — a drive down Flatbush and three free throws — but Embiid answered with a crafty straight-on three to put Philly up 55-54 at the half.

Durant and Harden led Brooklyn in the first half, combining for 26 points of the team’s 54. Claxton had a strong first half with 10 points and six rebounds, but it was the turnovers that hurt the most — 14 turnovers (13 Sixers points). Although the turnovers did the damage, Brooklyn shot 50.0 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from deep. On the bright side, the 16 points allowed marked the second-fewest allowed in a second quarter this season.

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

In the third, neither team could string together a consistent flow of buckets until Durant caught fire. The Nets superstar drilled back-to-back threes off Harden feeds to lift Brooklyn to a seven-point lead with 3:48 left, but the Sixers quickly answered while the Nets went cold. Philly responded with an extended 13-4 run to hit the final 12 minutes with a two-point lead (84-82).

Philadelphia was able to hold a two-point lead and give Embiid extended time on the bench, subbing in the big man with 5:53 left. After a series of lead changes and knotted-up scores, the game came down to the final minute and Brooklyn couldn’t close out a chippy final minute of play, losing by eight points.

Kevin Durant presented with Eastern Conference Player of the Month award for October & November

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

Before Thursday night’s game against the Sixers, Kevin Durant was presented with the Eastern Conference Player of the Month award for the months of October and November at center court. The Nets superstar was awarded the honor (the 15th of his career) after averaging 28.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 5.6 assists and leading Brooklyn to a 15-6 overall record during that span.

Milestone Watch

Kevin Durant and James Harden, both with 33 points, reached the 30-point mark tonight. It was the third time in the season — and in the last two weeks — that the Nets have had two 30+ point scorers in the same game.

  • December 14 vs. Toronto: Durant and Mills
  • December 25 at L.A. Lakers: Harden and Mills
  • December 30 vs. Philadelphia: Durant and Harden

Harden (33 points, season-high-tying 13 rebounds, 10 assists) posted his sixth triple-double of the season, tied for second-most in the league.

Durant (33 points) recorded his 14th 30-point game of the season, tied with LeBron James for the league lead. KD remains the league’s leading scorer (29.9 ppg). If KD scores 34 points vs. the Clippers on Saturday, he’ll be an even 30.0 ppg. The last time Durant averaged 30+ points a game was 2013-14 when he averaged 32.0 and won the MVP award.

New beat writer

Nick Friedell, who has covered the Warriors for ESPN, is the network’s new Nets beat writer. He replaces Malika Andrews, now the host of NBA TODAY. Ohm Youngmisuk had filled in. Kendra Andrews, Malika’s sister, moves into Friedell’s job, moving over from NBC Sports Bay Area.

As Sponge Bob might say...

What’s next

Brooklyn Nets v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

The Nets will return to action on Jan. 1 when the team hosts the Clippers at Barclays Center. The game is scheduled to tip at 7:30 p.m. ET.

For a different perspective, check out Liberty Ballers — our sister site covering the Sixers.