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Nets collapse in final minutes, losing to Clippers, 120-116: ‘We got what we deserved’

Los Angeles Clippers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

A very winnable game that turned into a disappointing and frustrating loss. Bottom line. Period. End of story. Or as Kevin Durant said. “We were too chill.”

The Nets collapsed in the fourth quarter Saturday, losing to the Clippers, 120-116 in Brooklyn. The loss marked the first time Brooklyn dropped consecutive games and fall to 23-11 on the season. The team is now second seed in the East, behind the Bulls.

The Clippers were without injured stars Kawhi Leonard (knee), Paul George (elbow) and Nicolas Batum (ankle), with Head Coach Doc Rivers, Ivica Zubac and Brandon Boston were among those in health and safety protocols. How bad was their situation? James Ennis III and Wenyen Gabriel played as hardship exceptions with the Nets a week ago and for the Clippers after being released by Brooklyn.

“We just relaxed too much. We went up 10 and we missed a layup or turn the ball over, they get a fast break, give up a three or a straight line drive. Like coach said, we didn’t deserve to win this game,” said Durant after the loss. “We came in here with a f**ked up attitude to start thinking we were just going to walk into a W.”

It was another game Brooklyn left the door open for the opposition late in the fourth quarter. This time, the Nets paid the price.

The Clippers knotted the game up at 110 with a three (15-3 run), but Durant responded with a three of his own to bring the lead back up to three points with a little over two minutes left. Los Angeles took their first lead since the score was 43-42, taking a 114-113 lead entering the final minute.

James Johnson missed a right-wing three to take back the lead and on the other end, Terrance Mann hit a corner three to extend the Clippers' lead to four points with 23.0 seconds left.

Durant and Johnson both missed desperation 3-pointers out of the timeout and Harden was fouled after an offensive rebound. The guard hit the pair of free throws to make it a two-point game. Eric Bledsoe hit one of two free throws, leaving the door open — down three (118-115) with 7.9 seconds remaining. But it came down to free throws with the odds not on the Nets side.

The Clippers intentionally fouled Durant instead of allowing the Nets to get up a three to tie it. The superstar missed the first free throw and hit the second. Reggie Jackson iced the disappointing defeat with two free throws.

“I just think 71 points in the second half is unacceptable. We just never really had the care factor. Turned it up, we had a chance up nine, 10, 11 in the third and fourth at different times and just took our foot off the gas and got what we deserved,” said Nash after the loss.

“Those guys in there, I think they know it. They’re disappointed, of course. It’s a disappointment for all of us. That was obviously a very winnable game that we let get away.”

Harden concluded the game with his fourth 30-point triple-double of the season: 34 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists in a team-high 40 minutes. Durant finished with a near double-double of 28 points, nine rebounds and three assists in 39 minutes of action.

“Hopefully a loss like this sits in your brain till tomorrow. We go out there understanding what your job is as an individual and how you can be the best at your job and bring it to the collective,” said Durant on bouncing back from the loss. “It’s always about the collective. If you ain’t feeling like shit after this game, you have to look at yourself in the mirror.”

“It’s a little bit of everything,” said Harden on the 120-116 defeat. “It’s a tough one. A frustrating one.”

Patty Mills, who fouled out in the fourth, scored 17 points in 33 minutes of play. His absence down the stretch served volumes in the loss and the Clippers immediately knew the impact of it.

“It was huge absence. When he went out, all they kept screaming was ‘now they only got two shooters out there.’ That’s what they were saying,” Durant said. “We knew double-teams were coming and just forget about their defensive scheme and just bring two at James and myself for the last six minutes off the game.”

Nic Claxton strung together another confident showing of 13 points and 10 rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench, the latter number a career-high. LaMarcus Aldridge, who started for Brooklyn, ended with 10 points and nine rebounds.

The Nets started Harden, Mills, Brown, Durant and Aldridge — their 14th different starting lineup of the season. Brooklyn couldn’t string together a flow of buckets early, trailing 16-9 with 6:57 remaining after missing seven straight shots and Los Angeles going on an 11-0 run.

Brooklyn answered with a 15-2 run, sparked by the defensive activity of DeAndre’ Bembry and Claxton off the bench to knot the score with a little over a minute left. After a strong cut and finish by Claxton, the Nets concluded the first with a 30-29 lead.

If you like shooting, you probably didn’t like the second. The shooting troubles lingered for both teams. The Nets missed seven straight shots, resulting in a small 9-0 run for the Clippers but the score remained a one-possession game and by the time the halftime buzzer sounded, Brooklyn held a four-point lead (53-49).

Despite a tough shooting half, the Nets controlled the boards — 33-20 — and grabbed 12 offensive boards (a season-high for any half this season) while only coughing up five turnovers. Durant was the only Net in double-figures with 16 points followed by four Nets with eight points each — Aldridge, Mills, Harden and Claxton.

LA Clippers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

It took some time but Brooklyn had their 3-balls falling in the third. After a pair of deep balls from Harden and a right-wing three from Mills, the Nets grew their advantage to nine points (their biggest lead up to that point) with 5:36 left in the third. That sparked some separation.

The Nets superstar guard scored 11 straight points for Brooklyn and he concluded the third with 16 points alone in the quarter (season-high for any Net in a third quarter) to lift his total to 24 points heading into the fourth. Durant, despite being doubled throughout the frame hit the final 12 minutes with 22 points to help boost Brooklyn to an 87-80 lead.

It was a strong opening to the fourth, Brooklyn continued their theme of leaving the door open for the opposition. Instead of another escaping win, the Nets paid it in full, losing a winnable game and hitting the locker room with a frustrating loss.

“It’s natural when a team misses so many players and has been going through so much over there. Relaxed and you don’t think you can lose an NBA game like this,” said Durant. “They’re playing guys from the G League. Xavier Moon came in and hit some shots. Keon Johnson, James Ennis, Wenyen Gabriel; they all made an impact on the game. I think we came into this game too chill to start.”

Milestone Watch

James Harden (34 points, 11 boards, 14 assists) has registered his second straight 30-point triple-double. Harden is the first player in franchise history and the only player in the NBA this season to post 30-point triple-doubles in consecutive games. It was also Harden’s 19th triple-double in only 65 games. Finally, Harden became the first player in Nets franchise history to have seven 30-point triple-doubles seven times as a Net. Jason Kidd had two, Derrick Coleman had one.

Claxton keeps going

Nic Claxton has had the best stretch of his NBA career. In the last six games, Claxton has averaged 13.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.2 blocks in 26.7 minutes. He’s shooting 72.2 percent from the floor and 62.5 percent from the line during the stretch. His 10 rebounds Saturday were a career high.

During that run, Claxton has had career highs in minutes (33 vs. Sixers); points (18 vs. Clippers in LA); rebounds (10 vs. Clippers in Brooklyn) and blocks (4 vs. Clippers in LA).

As Sponge Bog might say...

Not a happy (enough) birthday

For Joe Tsai who turned 58 or Tiago Splitter who’s now 37.

What’s next

San Antonio Spurs v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Nets will return to action on Monday, Dec. 3 when the team hosts the Grizzlies at Barclays Center. The game is scheduled to tip at 7:30 p.m. ET.

For a different perspective on Brooklyn’s season-sweeping win over Los Angeles, check out Clips Nation — our sister site covering the Clippers.