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Nets fall in final seconds to Warriors for fourth-straight loss, 110-106

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Brooklyn Nets v Golden State Warriors Photo by Kavin Mistry/Getty Images

A 19-point comeback that fell just short in the final seconds ... and a challenge call controversy that could have changed the game. All in a night in San Francisco.

The short-handed Nets were beaten by the Warriors in Golden State Saturday night, losing 110-106 in a raucous affair that saw the Nets go down by 19, then recover in a 20-4 run before Splash Brothers did what they do at the end, scoring the final 17 points for Golden State. Brooklyn suffered their fourth-straight loss, falling to 29-20 on the season and 17-7 on the road.

“I’m proud of the guys. They fought. They stuck with it and that’s a difficult team to defend that does things differently than most of the rest of the league,” said Steve Nash on the loss. “We did very well in stretches and we were poor in stretches but we didn't fracture. We stayed with it. We kept working at it. We kept fighting for it. I’m really proud of the way we fought back in the game. I thought we got better tonight.”

The defeat also marks the first time this season the team has lost consecutive road contests. The Nets are now in the sixth seed, not far out of the play-in tournament for teams that finish in the seventh through tenth seeds.

“We can’t be fragile,” said Kyrie Irving on the Nets losing four-straight games. “People are going to come at us. Nobody is going to feel bad whether this guy is in the lineup or this guy is not in the lineup, every team is competing for those top four positions with one of those teams having aspirations of playing down in the late postseason. These games right here, you’ll remember them because you’re going against a Western Conference team that can potentially see you down the line. You never know what can happen.”

Irving certainly did his part...

The Warriors had a 102-99 lead heading into the final minute of play. After a bad foul by James Johnson, Steph Curry hit two free throws to make the Nets’ deficit five points. Luckily for Brooklyn, Irving caught Curry with a foul by midcourt and went on to drill a pair of free throws to bring the deficit down to only three points (104-101) with 51.1 seconds left.

The Nets caught another break when Kevon Looney fouled Patty Mills off a rebound attempt on the following Warriors possession. The veteran guard hit his pair of free throws to make it a one-point (104-103) game entering the final 20 seconds of play. Klay Thompson then attempted to shut the door on Brooklyn’s hopes, drilling a 28-foot three to bring it back to a four-point game (107-103) with 12.1 seconds remaining.

With little hope, Irving provided his own personal spark. Irving went right and swished home a right wing three out of an inbounds play cutting the Warriors lead to 107-106 with 10 seconds left. On the ensuing Warriors possession, the officials called a foul on Irving, which resulted in two free throws for Thompson, like Curry, one of the game’s great free throw shooters and he hit both. The Nets head coach didn’t challenge the call and Golden State went on to escape with the home win.

“I’ll get someone in trouble if I say why. A little bird said don’t challenge,” said Steve Nash on why he didn’t challenge the foul ruling in the closing seconds indicating the “bird” in question wore stripes. The Nets head coach said officials had told him the foul on Irving was “100 percent a foul” and would not have been overturned. An unsuccessful challenge would have eliminated the Nets' final timeout.

Shortly after Nash explained his reasoning for not challenging the call, Irving said he trusted the Nets head coach’s judgment. Initially, the Nets guard thought he was in a legal guarding position but following seeing the replay of the foul call by the officials, said — “That’s going to be a foul any day of the week, any game. Sorry.”

Irving, the lone member of the Nets’ “Big Three” on the court finished with a game-high 32 points on 9-of-21 shooting from the field and 3-of-8 from behind the arc. The superstar guard also snagged seven rebounds, dished seven assists, and had three steals as well in his game-high 39 minutes of play.

With the late scratch of James Harden (right hand strain), Mills had to carry a heavier offensive burden and delivered. The veteran guard, who was mic’d up by ABC, scored 24 points on 8-of-21 shooting overall and 6-of-12 shooting from 3-point range in 38 minutes. James Johnson tallied 14 points in 26 minutes off the bench. The veteran said he’s feeling fine after bumping knees with Otto Porter Jr. in the fourth quarter.

LaMarcus Aldridge, who suffered a left ankle sprain in the fourth quarter, finished with nine points in 15 minutes of play. After the game, the Nets head coach didn’t have an update on the veteran big man, but it was reported Aldridge left the arena on crutches.

“It’s just an ankle sprain. I will be all right. I just can’t walk on it right now,” Aldridge said.

Although he didn’t make a lot of noise in the box score, Kessler Edwards did more than a credible job on Curry who finished 5-of-18 overall and won a lot of raves from the ABC crew on the nationally televised game. The rookie finished with four points in his 10th straight start to go along with six boards and two blocks.

“We’re asking a lot from him, and he’s producing for us,” said Mills post-game. “It’s our job as vets to help him along the way, and he is going to be huge for us”

The Nets started Irving, Mills, Edwards, DeAndre’ Bembry and Nic Claxton for Saturday night’s nationally televised contest. Brooklyn took an early 11-5 advantage in the opening minutes with Claxton providing a scoring punch with five points and four rebounds (all offensive rebounds) in that span.

The Warriors rode the back of Andrew Wiggins, forging an extended 21-7 run. The newly minted All-Star starter got what he wanted through a series of open looks from behind the arc and Golden State picked apart the Nets switches to take a 26-18 lead with a minute left. Wiggins, who scored 14 points, five rebounds and a pair of blocks helped Golden State seal a 31-20 lead after one.

Brooklyn didn’t go away and responded in an emphatic way, going on a 19-4 run to retake the lead (39-37) with just under eight minutes remaining in the second. The Nets continued to attack the basket, rather than settle for outside shots. Despite a strong start, Brooklyn struggled to recognize critical personnel, often leaving open Golden State’s top shooters. The result was the Warriors taking a 54-47 halftime lead.

It was a first half Brooklyn could be pleased with. Despite allowing Golden State to shoot 40.0 percent from the field and 34.8 percent from 3-point range, the Nets weathered the Warriors’ storm. Curry’s cold shooting also helped Brooklyn. The Warriors guard tallied only two points on 1-of-7 shooting overall and 0-of-3 shooting from behind the arc, it was Wiggins (17 points, seven rebounds, one assist and two blocks) who stepped up. Jordan Poole also registered 10 points off the bench.

The backcourt duo of Mills and Irving combined for 22 points in the first half while Griffin helped spark a consistent offensive rhythm with six points and three boards in six minutes off the bench. Brooklyn shot 34.0 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from behind the arc in the first half; not great offense and not surprising considering that the Nets were short-handed.

Brooklyn Nets v Golden State Warriors Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/NBAE via Getty Images

Although the Nets did what they could, things went decidedly south early in the third. Golden State did what they do best — picking apart Brooklyn’s defense with cuts to the basket — to balloon their advantage to 66-49 with 9:15 left in the period. And then Irving took matters into his own hands.

Irving tallied 14 points in the frame (25 points through three quarters of play) to help command a 20-4 run by Brooklyn. The Nets went on to cut the deficit to only two points (78-76) by the conclusion of the period.

“We had to make up a lot of ground in that third quarter,” said Irving. “The whistle was going back and forth. Those guys shoot a ton of threes so getting back in the game was tough, but I felt like at the end of that third quarter, we found something as a team. We can carry that over into the next game.”

In the opening minutes of the fourth, Brooklyn took yet another injury hit. LaMarcus Aldridge rolled his ankle and shortly after, Nash took a timeout to help get his limping veteran big off the hardwood. Shortly after, the team ruled him out for the remainder of the game with a left ankle sprain. Nash had no further word on his condition post-game.

The game came down to the final minute. The Warriors held a flimsy 102-99 advantage heading into the final minute of play. In the end, Brooklyn went on to drop the contest by four points, losing their fourth-straight game.

Honor for Nets leading stash

Nikola Milutinov, the 7-footer whose draft right the Nets acquired in the multi-team Spencer Dinwiddie trade, is the Euroleague’s Week 23 MVP, essentially player of the week. Milutinov’s rights were acquired from the Spurs who took the Serbian player at No. 26 in the first round of the 2015 Draft, overseen by then San Antonio assistant GM Sean Marks.

The CSKA center put on a show in team’s win over UNICS Kazan on Friday night as the Euroleague noted in its announcement.

The CSKA center scored 17 points on 6-for-7 two-point shooting. He also collected 7 rebounds, including 4 on the offensive glass, and had 2 blocks and 2 assists while drawing 8 personal fouls. Milutinov finished the game with a performance index rating of 28, the highest among players on winning teams in Round 23, marking his fifth career MVP of the Round honor.

Here’s some video...

A traditional European big, Milutinov hangs around the basket and rarely takes a three. After recovering from an early season injury, Milutinov has been playing well of late. In his last 10 games, he’s averaged 12.6 points and 10.4 rebounds while shooting 65.7 percent overall and 82.4 percent of his free throws. In that span, he took one three and made it.

Probably the most NBA-ready of the Nets five stashes — three international and two domestic — Milutinov has a year left on his CSKA contract and is one of Europe’s highest paid players, earning $2.5 million (which unlike NBA deals is net of taxes.)

Could his rights become trade bait?

As Sponge Bob might say...

Milestone Watch

Patty Mills keeps extending personal records. He reached the 20-point mark for the 15th time this season — a personal high — and the third time in his last four games. Mills went 8-of-21 overall and 6-of-12 from 3-point range tonight, giving him 158 threes for the season, three short of his career best for a season which he did last season.

What’s next

Minnesota Timberwolves v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

The Nets will play the second game of their five-game West Coast swing on Tuesday, when the team travels to Phoenix to play the Suns. The game is slated to tip at 10:00 p.m. ET. Steve Nash said he’s hopeful James Harden can play.

For a different perspective on Saturday night’s game, check out Golden State of Mind — our sister site covering the Warriors.