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Kyrie Irving scores 45 as Nets lose season-high four straight, 113-109

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Brooklyn Nets v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

A day that began with positive news finished with a tough loss ... and not a small amount of negativity.

The Nets, who hold the NBA-best road record against the West (12-3) went cold late, losing to the Dallas Mavericks, 113-109. With the loss, Brooklyn falls to 43-24 on the season and extends their losing streak to four games. Moreover, they are now two and a half games behind the 76ers and a half-game ahead of the Bucks with five left.

“I think pressure is good. You are going to face pressure in the playoffs, so we have to be pressure tested and this is a team that hasn’t been there together before. This is a little bit of pressure for us. A little bit of a hole to dig out of. I think these are positive scenarios we haven’t faced. For us to go through this and have a little losing streak - we need all of these games to get better,” Steve Nash said. “Win or lose, what can we take from there and what can we gain. This is not a time to panic. We’ve made the playoffs. We’re getting healthy at the right time now.”

Brooklyn entered the fourth nursing a one-point lead and Dallas, behind some smart play, forged a 13-2 run lasting four minutes to give the Mavericks a 99-92 lead with 5:57 remaining. Not only did the Nets offense go on a cold streak, they couldn’t get stops.

Kyrie Irving was the Nets main offensive catalyst throughout the contest finishing with a season-high 45 points, four assists, and five rebounds on 17-of-31 shooting from the field and 7-of-13 from deep. His 45 points are a season-high for any Net this season and his fifth 40+ point performance of the season. Providing some hope late, Irving drove through the teeth of the defense, converting a crafty and-one to put Brooklyn within four with 1:15 remaining. That was as close as it got.

Luka Doncic, who led the Mavericks with 24 points on 7-of-22 shooting overall and 5-of-13 from deep, answered with an 11-foot step-back jumper. After two free throws from Irving, Jalen Brunson, who packed a punch off the bench for the Mavericks with 15 points in 26 minutes, hit a driving layup to lift their lead back up to six with 32.6 seconds remaining.

In desperate need of a bucket, Irving air-balled a finger roll layup, and Dallas went on to capitalize on free throws. Jeff Green hit one of two free throws to provide some life and cut the deficit to three. Tim Hardaway Jr. then iced the game, hitting one free throw as Dallas escaped with the four-point win.

“I thought we turned it over a little bit early in the fourth. A part of it is missing shots tonight. We make shots we normally make, we get to our spots, and then maybe it’s a different outcome. That leads me to what could have we controlled. You always look at your mistakes,” Nash said. “Execution on both ends defensively made too many errors and you’re not going to shoot the ball as well as we normally do. Some of those errors cost us tonight,”

Kevin Durant, who struggled to find an offensive rhythm throughout the game, was only 1-of-10 in the second half. It was the third straight game the usually reliable KD had big dropoff after halftime. He finished with 20 points on 7-of-21 shooting from the field and 0-of-4 from behind the arc. The Nets superstar did snag nine rebounds and three assists in the loss.

“Just trust my work,” said Durant about his rough shooting night. “Most of the time, it’s a mentality switch of what I need to do to be more effective and more efficient. Tonight I tried shots I shouldn’t have tried. I shot over a double-team one time in the fourth. I shot a runner going to the left. Just trying to get in the game scoring-wise, sometimes that may push me out of the game trying tough ones.”

Besides Brooklyn’s superstar duo, the Nets’ firepower was limited with only three other players finished in double-figures. Blake Griffin provided the Nets with good minutes, finishing with 10 points and 10 rebounds in 27 minutes followed by Bruce Brown with 10 points in 24 minutes off the bench.

Dallas improves to 39-28 on the season to expand their lead over the Lakers to 1.5 games in the five seed with the playoffs approaching.

The Nets opened the game with their 35th different starting lineup of the season but went to a traditional opening offensive possession - moving the ball to get Harris an open look. Brooklyn’s defense was scrambled early as the Mavericks were scoring with ease in the opening minutes, putting up 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 from deep. Nash called a timeout with 6:34 remaining down five.

Brooklyn cleaned up their sluggish defense following the timeout, but the Mavericks ended the first frame with 37 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the deep and over 50.0 percent from the floor which isn’t ideal on the road. The Nets offense was driven by Irving, who scored 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field and 2-of-3 from deep. Griffin followed with eight points and three boards to go with a pair of key hustle plays to bring Brooklyn within five after one.

It was more than just defensive lapses that put the Nets at a disadvantage. It was a rough offensive start for Brooklyn, missing their first six shots of the quarter and failing to capitalize when Doncic wasn’t on the court. Then, Kyrie started to cook...

Irving put on a show in the second, scoring 15 points in that frame alone, totaling 25 points at the break on 10-of-14 shooting from the field and 4-of-6 from deep. Durant followed with 16 points to go with five rebounds and two assists in 19 minutes as the superstar duo combined for 25 of Brooklyn’s 30 points in the second.

Meanwhile, Doncic was keeping the Mavs afloat, scoring nine straight points for Dallas to knot the score at 53 with 3:49 remaining, but Brooklyn began to blitz the 22-year-old at halfcourt to get the ball out of his hands - a strategy that seemed to work in the second to diffuse their offense - “limiting” him to 19 points in 11 minutes of play.

The Mavericks opened the third hitting one of their first 10 shots. Problem was that Brooklyn’s offense was stagnant in the opening minutes. The Nets found a rhythm midway through the period, growing their lead to 70-66 off a 25-foot three from Harris and a lefty slam from Griffin, leaving the Mavs to call a timeout with 6:52 remaining.

Durant hit the bench for the remainder of the third after picking up his fourth foul at the 6:08 mark, Irving carried the load in the third while getting some help from Brown and Green, but the Nets biggest difference-maker was holding Doncic scoreless from the field in the third, registering only one free throw. Although their defense on Dallas’ young star was stellar, Brooklyn registered seven turnovers in the third frame - and a total of 11 - and didn’t attempt a free throw as well, hitting the final 12 minutes with an 83-82 lead. The Nets outscored the Mavericks 21-19 in the third, which also marked the lowest combined point total in the third quarter this season.

From there it went south.

The Film Room

Look, this was a tough loss. The defense was porous; the offense stagnant. Brooklyn looks ready for the postseason, for better or worse. They’re limping across the finish line.

But if you’ll allow us, let’s briefly touch on one of the bright spots in Thursday’s game. I’m sure some positivity won’t exactly be a hindrance during the tough losing streak.

Why. Do. Teams. Do it. Why? Why do teams isolate against Nicolas Claxton? Where does that get you? Do you enjoy feeling embarrassed? Do you enjoy watching your star players get the clamp-down of the ages?

My advice: Next time you’re thinking about going mano-e-mano with Nicolas Claxton, don’t! Don’t do it! Save yourself the time, the horror!

Don’t be Luka Doncic, who after nailing, I don’t know, 37 first-half step-back threes (it was 4, but let me vent), sized up Nicolas Claxton after the switch in the pick-and-roll only to get thoroughly smothered by the 22-year-old.

Let’s go through this clip slowly, thoroughly. First, notice how he’s shading Luka to his right toward the help of Landry Shamet. Second, look at the little fake he makes at Doncic to attempt to throw the MVP candidate off his game (whether that fake is effective rests in the eye of the beholder, but still). Then finally, check out how quickly he flips his footwork and then plants off that right leg to lurch toward Doncic on the stepback. It’s almost like *gasp*, Clax saw the move coming!

It’s just found money when he’s contributing on the other end of the floor. On this empty side pick-and-roll with Mike James, Claxton slips his screen early to catch Dwight Powell backpedaling like a defensive back, resulting in a tremendous slam from Claxmania.

Like most young bigs in the league, all Claxton wants to do is slip his screens and rise up for big dunks. That has a place in the offense; the energy is infectious.

Should the Nets be worried?

On a four-game losing streak, is this the time to panic? Should Nets fans be worried about their squad playing its worst basketball of the season just before the playoffs?

Joe Harris declaratively answered that question after Thursday’s game, continuing the ever-so-present levelheadedness that this Nets team loves to display.

“No, I wouldn’t say I’m worried and I don’t think anyone in the locker room is worried,” said Harris. “This is a tough stretch of the season of games. Obviously, we haven’t lost four in a row at all this season, but this is what happens over the course of the season. It could’ve happened earlier in January, February and it probably would be a lot of the same questions, probably be feeling a similar sort of way. But we still have five games left now to right the ship, get ourselves playing better basketball, and hopefully carry a little bit more momentum in a positive way going into the postseason.”

Ease your worries, folks. The Nets, from the outside looking in, are not panicking just yet.

Durant, Harden, Lin appear in video launching The Asian-American Foundation

Kevin Durant, James Harden and former Net Jeremy Lin are appearing in The Asian American Foundation’s new video condemning violence against the Asian and Asian-American communities ... while raising the visibility and awareness of the 23 million Americans of Asian heritage...

Joe Tsai is among a group of prominent — and wealthy — Asian-American leaders behind the foundation, a quarter-billion dollar effort to support Asian-American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) organizations and causes over the next five years — the largest philanthropic commitment in history by Asian-Americans.

As Sponge Bob might say...

Per Will Hanley.

What’s next

The Nets will return to action when the team travels to Denver to take on the surging Nuggets on Saturday, May 8. The game is scheduled to tip at 10:00 PM ET.

“We still have five games to get ourselves right,” Joe Harris said. “I think in the locker room, there is a sense of urgency to get ourselves right against Denver.”

For a different perspective on Thursday's contest, check out Mavs Moneyball - our sister site covering the Dallas Mavericks.