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Nets eight-game winning streak ends as Brooklyn falls to Dallas, 115-98

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Dallas Mavericks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The NBA’s longest winning streak — and the Nets longest in 14 years— has come to a thudding end.

The short-handed Nets, who were without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Tyler Johnson, suffered a tough loss, falling to the Dallas Mavericks, 115-98. With the loss, the Nets' eight-game winning streak has come to an end and Brooklyn falls to 22-13 on the season and remain half a game behind the Sixers for first in the East.

“I think everyone is frustrated that we had just shorter options tonight, missing two All-Star starters but even beyond that, Jeff went out, and Tyler couldn’t play,” Nash said following the loss. “It just stretched everything and put us in a territory where a lot of other guys haven’t had a lot of minutes together. Frustrating but that’s the nature of this season. We have said that time and time again. We are going to have all sorts of nights where we are going to mix and match and play different things and tonight, we weren’t quite good enough. Dallas played well and maybe just one or two many factors that went against us.”

James Harden, who finished with another all-around performance of 29 points to go along with seven rebounds and six assists in 33 minutes, could not carry the Nets to the win, scoring only four points after halftime.

Harden, who also had six turnovers, took accountability in that category following the loss.

“I had six turnovers. A lot of them were careless,” Harden said. “A lot of them were just not good plays and I tried to thread the needle and what not and that’s it. When you give an offensive team like that opportunity after opportunity, they did a great job of capitalizing. We just got to be better. I got to be better individually at securing the basketball and we will be better.”

When asked if Harden was playing too much due to the Nets being short-handed, he said he played the same way he usually does.

“I just played the same way. Outlet passes to Bruce that I got they deflected,” Harden said. “Dribbles to the basket threw the ball out of bounds. Myself, I did that. I wasn’t trying to do more than I usually do, I played my game, and sometimes you have bad games so chalk it up and watch film and get better.”

Jeff Green, who returned from a right shoulder contusion, finished with 12 points followed by Bruce Brown, who continued to impress offensively - finishing with 12 points, nine rebounds, and three assists in 31 minutes.

Green, who was not pleased following the loss, said the Nets did not play well on both ends and did not get the runs or stops when the team needed it.

“They played well on both ends. They were aggressive on defense and took us out of a lot of what we were trying to do. They made runs when it mattered and they got stops when it mattered,” Green said. “We did the opposite.”

When asked if the Nets simply ran out of gas following a lengthy win streak and being short-handed, Green emphasized how the Nets are a no-excuse team, taking a leadership approach.

“This is a no-excuse team,” Green said. “If you are on the floor, you are going to play as hard as you can. They just got the best of us tonight and they got the win. That’s all it really was. It’s not about us running out of gas. We just didn’t come ready to play and they won.”

The Nets three 10-day players also got an opportunity to see the court and prove their worth. Iman Shumpert was the only one not to score. Andre Roberson led the group with six points, eight boards and two steals in 19 minutes, even hitting a three. Tyler Cook finished with two points in six minutes.

As a team, Brooklyn finished the loss shooting 40.7 percent overall and 31.8 percent from deep. What hurt the Nets was their 19 total turnovers, which resulted in 32 points for Dallas.

“Like I said, they were aggressive on defense. Jumping the passing lanes, made us speed it up a little bit, and forced us to turn the ball over,” Green said. “They scored on the opposite end of that and in order for us to win, especially when we got guys out, we have to do better. We have to take care of the ball, make sure we get a good shot every time, and can’t allow their defense to turn us over like that and then allow us to score on our turnovers like that.”

For Dallas, Luka Doncic finished with 27 points in 34 minutes followed by Kristaps Porzingis, who returned for a three-game absence, scoring 18 points in 26 minutes of play.

“Luka is Luka Doncic. He’s playing at his own pace and there are some similarities,” Harden said. “He never lets anyone speed him up and he gets what he wants. That’s rare for a guy at a young age. I think he’s 21 years old and to be able to take the game and control it as he does so obviously we know he has a very, very, very bright future and the Mavs got a special one.”

It was a tough first quarter for the Nets as the Mavericks' size and length progressively gave Brooklyn trouble on both ends. With 15 points, Harden led the Nets offense on a 14-3 run to tie the score at 24. The Mavericks recovered and stayed consistent offensively, ending the first on a 14-2 run while shooting 60.9 percent overall and 54.5 percent from deep. The Nets trailed, 38-26, after one.

While the Mavericks' size advantage, along with their 3-point shooting, continued to give Brooklyn problems, Steve Nash and the Nets upped their size subbing in Nicolas Claxton with 6:37 remaining in the second. As the Nets added size, their defense picked up followed by their offense. Brooklyn ended the half down only four points and shooting 47.8 percent overall and 43.5 percent from deep along with nine turnovers, which resulted in 20 points for Dallas (ouch).

At the half, the star power was certainly present as Harden led all scorers with 25 points to go along with seven rebounds and three assists in 19 minutes. His performance marked the second-biggest scoring performance by a Net in a half this season. While Harden kept the Nets afloat, Luka Doncic paved the way for Dallas, scoring 19 points at the half.

Brooklyn struggled in the third quarter as Dallas controlled the tempo and played with much more visible energy. The Nets continued to play uphill throughout the third and with 3:17 remaining, Tim Hardaway Jr. swatted Harden’s floater resulting in Dallas scoring on the fast break, growing their lead to 15 - their largest lead of the game - followed by Nash calling a timeout. Brooklyn ended the quarter still searching for an offensive rhythm, trailing by 12 heading into the final 12 minutes of play.

Dallas did not feather the gas offensively in the fourth while the Nets struggled to overcome a heavy deficit that was as large as 20 in the period. With four minutes remaining, Nash released his bench putting all three of his 10-day players (Iman Shumpert, Tyler Cook, and Andre Roberson) in the game along with Chris Chiozza and Brown to conclude the loss.

Steve Nash held Kyrie Irving out due to right shoulder ‘maintenance’

Prior to Saturday’s loss against the Mavericks, Steve Nash spoke about Kyrie Irving, who did not play due to right shoulder recovery. Nash noting keeping him out for right shoulder ‘maintenance’ while noting it is the same shoulder Irving had surgery on last season.

“I think it’s maintenance. He knows his body. He discussed it with us and he has a history with that shoulder,” Nash said. “We’re just taking the necessary precautions to keep up the maintenance with that shoulder, but I don’t think it’s anything more than that so I’d expect him to play next game, and if not, I don’t think this is a thing that’ll linger into the All-Star break.”

For background, Irving’s shoulder surgery in February of 2020 and recovery limited the Nets All-Star guard to play in only 20 games last season for Brooklyn.

While the Nets held Irving out, there is a small chance the Nets can be fined a minimum of $100,000 due to not playing the Nets guard if the league deems it rest during a nationally televised game - a policy the league instituted prior to the 2020-21 season.

In the pre-game, Newsday’s Greg Logan asked Steve Nash if Irving’s shoulder was “load management,” code for resting player. Nash wasn’t taking the bait. “You’re not going to get me tonight, Greg Logan.”

One superstar to another

With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving out, the game was billed as a mano-a-mano battle between James Harden and Luka Doncic two superstars divided by a decade in age and experience but seen as somewhat similar players: big, strong guards who are just as comfortable barreling into the lane or launching a feathery three.

Harden was asked post-game about the comparisons.

“There are some similarities,” Harden said after the game. “He never lets anyone speed him up, and he gets what he wants. That’s rare for a guy at a young age. I think he’s 21 years old. And to be able to dictate the game and control the game like he does, we all know he has a very, very bright future.

“The Mavs got a special one.”

Doncic, who turned 22 Sunday, reacted this way.

“It’s something you can’t even describe if somebody like that says something about you,” said Doncic. “It’s just amazing. I really appreciate it. I watch him. He’s an unbelievable player and just really special.”

In the month of February, both put up huge numbers. Doncic averaged 30.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 8.3 assists while Harden went 25.6, 8.8 and 10.7. Both were also often operating without All-Star teammates for long stretches. Harden said that’s the burden of being a star.

“Whoever is in the lineup and suited up has to be better, and that starts with me,” said Harden

Captain Kevin

Marc Stein reports that even though Kevin Durant will be out for the All-Star Game with his hamstring strain, but he’ll be part of the festivities, serving as team captain for the Eastern Conference.

KD will also be part of the All Star Draft next Thursday night on TNT.

Joe Harris spoke about how his teammates are trying to help the 11-time All-Star through this time. Not only has KD missed time with his hamstring but before that, he was in the NBA’s health and safety protocol, missing 10 of the last 11 games.

“You just try to encourage him,” Joe Harris said of Durant. “Obviously, it’s tough not having him, but it’s tougher on Kevin because he just likes to play so much.

“He loves the game and he just wants to be out competing and playing with guys, especially after being out for a full year. He’s had a lot of ups and downs, whether it’s COVID protocol and now the injury. You just try to encourage him and make sure that he’s doing all right in that regard.”

Roberson vs. Shumpert

If, as many around the team suspect, Andre Roberson and Iman Shumpert are competing for one defensive wing position, Roberson seems to be in the league. Not only did he get more minutes — 20 to five and a half— but he got minutes in the first half while Shumpert didn’t enter the game until garbage time. Roberson even hit a 3 pointer as he finished with six points, eight rebounds and two steals. Both are on 10-day deals.

As Sponge Bob might say...

Per Will Hanley...

What’s next

The Nets will return back to action when the team travels to San Antonio to take on the San Antonio Spurs on Monday, March 1. The game is set to tip at 8:30 PM ET.

Following Monday’s game, Brooklyn will play one last game on March 3 in Houston —James Harden’s first game back. Then eight days off until Thursday, March 11 when the Nets host the Boston Celtics at Barclays, first game of the season’s second half.

For a different perspective, check out Mavs Moneyball - our sister site covering the Dallas Mavericks for SB Nation.