The Nets showed they’re capable of impressive comebacks against the Lakers Sunday but ran out of gas when the game mattered most. Final: 116-103
Brooklyn was dealt some tough cards heading into the second game of the Los Angeles back-to-back: Kyrie Irving (team suspension); Seth Curry (left ankle - injury management); Ben Simmons (a late scratch with left knee soreness) all prior to tip-off, then losing Nic Claxton (left eye contusion) in the third quarter. Throughout the game — a game where the Nets never held a lead — it was evident it wasn’t going to go “The Brooklyn Way,” trademark or not.
“It just puts a strain on everyone else,” said Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn on dealing with key injuries. “We put David Duke in, Patty [Mills] in earlier, Markieff [Morris] in earlier than our normal rotation. Tried to really use our group to kinda get us to the end of the game but it puts a strain on us when we’re not completely whole for sure.”
Kevin Durant put out his usual 25+ point performance (the 14th of the season) and once again flirted with a triple-double: 31 points (8-of-16 shooting from the field and 2-of-3 shooting from 3-point territory), nine boards, seven assists, and two rejections in a game-high 38 minutes.
“We just played in spirts tonight. It was a perfect storm for them. They made a lot of shot and got to the rim. The AD [Anthony Davis] pick-and-roll was tough to stop tonight but I like how we fought,” Durant said postgame. “They got back into the game in the third quarter and we had a chance to win. They made more shots down the stretch than us, plain and simple.”
Cam Thomas contributed 15 points in 22 minutes off the bench. Edmond Sumner delivered some scoring punch for the shorthanded Nets, finishing with 13 points in 25 minutes. Joe Harris shot 4-of-7 from the field (2-of-4 from 3-point land) to end with 10 points. Yuta Wanatabe tallied 11 points in 23 minutes in his return from an ankle injury. But without Irving and Curry, there was little offense on the floor.
The Nets put out the same starting five — Sumner, Harris, Durant, Claxton and Royce O’Neale — against the Lakers who entered the game 2-10 and didn’t have LeBron James, out with an adductor strain. Brooklyn generated good looks from behind the arc throughout the first quarter but only got one of their six attempts to fall. Despite being able to create open shots, the Nets' defense was sluggish in the opening minutes, resulting in the Lakers taking an 8-point lead before Brooklyn ended the first trailing Los Angeles, 26-22.
Brooklyn was able to survive the second quarter minutes when Durant was taking a breather on the bench. Despite surviving those six minutes the Nets continued their woeful 3-point shooting and trailed by 38-31 with 5:39 left. Shortly after Durant checked into the game, there were two minor injury scares.
Sumner got screened off by Anthony Davis near mid-court and got up favoring his back. A few possessions later, Claxton was accidentally hit by Austin Reaves defending a drive. After the Nets called a timeout, Claxton headed to the locker room with an eye contusion.
The Nets couldn’t gather an offensive rhythm and concluded the first half trailing by nine points (55-46). The team was led by Sumner with nine points, followed by Durant with a quiet seven points on six shots, and Cam Thomas with seven. The difference maker in the first half was the unexpected 3-point shooting differential — Nets (2-of-16) compared to the Lakers (6-of-15).
Brooklyn once again struggled to connect on open looks and clip away at the deficit. The Nets were generating great shots, especially in transition, but the lid on the rim stayed shut into the second half. To make matters slightly worse, Brooklyn’s defense continued to get carved up by Los Angeles. Then just as hope was slipping off the hardwood, the Nets answered.
Despite losing Claxton for the remainder of the contest and Vaughn being whistled for a rare delay of game, Durant sparked a 16-3 burst in the final minutes to slice the deficit to only three points (80-77) heading into the fourth quarter. Although it served as a huge momentum changer, it also drained a lot of energy out of Brooklyn.
“Yeah, we had to put our closers in a little, little early. You know, we’re talking baseball reference instead of our middle-inning guys. And so that’s what happens,” Vaughn said. “We tried to make a push because we had to make up so much ground. It probably did take a little bit more total out of us.”
There were plenty of warning signs throughout three-quarters of the Nets running out of gas but the tank hit E in the fourth quarter. The Lakers forged a 13-0 run to ice the contest with five minutes remaining. Instead of emptying the bench after L.A.’s dominant run, Vaughn left the starters in for an additional two minutes before pulling the plug on an unlikely comeback with 3:39 left on the game clock.
“I think he did his regular stint the third and then he and I talked about going into the fourth,” said Vaughn on playing Durant extended minutes in the fourth. “We knew he was going to have one more real good push for us. And so if we would have waited too long and brought him in at the six-minute mark, that thing might have been over it already so decided to run him and he ended up not playing the last four or five minutes anywhere the game.”
Anthony Davis tore apart Brooklyn’s defense for a game-high 37 points and 18 boards in 34 minutes of play for the Lakers. Lonnie Walker IV followed with 25 points in 30 minutes to help Los Angeles snap their five-game losing skid.
Tsais on hand
Just as they were on Saturday vs. the Clippers, Joe and Clara Tsai were at Crypto.com arena for Sunday’s Laker game. They didn’t speak with reporters but they had a conversation with Rich Kleiman, Kevin Durant’s agent, manager and business partner.
No timetable for Irving return
Tsai didn’t speak with the media, as he did Saturday with Brian Lewis, but Jacque Vaughn addressed the issue briefly prior to the game.
“I don’t have any official word at all,” Vaughn said. “I’m just going to continue to go day by day, push this group and coach these dudes today.”
The Nets play Tuesday (Kings) and Thursday (Trailblazers) before returning to Brooklyn for Sunday’s game vs. the Grizzlies. It’s one-game homestand before the Nets head out again, playing three games on the road: November 22 in Philadelphia, November 23 in Toronto and November 25 in Indianapolis.
KD on LBJ
As noted in our game preview, Kevin Durant and LeBron James haven’t played against each other in nearly four years, on Christmas Day when KD was with the Warriors and LBJ with the Cavaliers. No matter, says Durant.
“I wasn’t thinking about it until ya’ll started bringing it up. He’s obviously a top-2 player, top-3 player to ever play the game, so it’s always gonna be excitement whenever he steps on the floor. We’ve been around for so long, that people have seen so many battles between us two at the highest stage, that people look forward to it. So it’s cool that we’re still relevant at an old age.” said the 34-year-old of the 37-year-old.
He didn’t name the other two.
The Nets will travel north to face the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday in Sacramento. The second game of Brooklyn’s four-game west coast road trip will tip at 10:00 p.m. ET. No word on whether Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons, Seth Curry or Nic Claxton will play. Claxton did say he expects to play Tuesday and since the stated reason for Curry’s absence was “injury management,” he too can be expected to play.
For a different perspective on Sunday night’s game against the Lakers, check out Silver Screen and Roll — our sister site covering the Lakers.
- Box Score: Los Angeles Lakers 116, Brooklyn Nets 103 - NBA
- Game Highlights: Los Angeles Lakers 116, Brooklyn Nets 103 (Video) - NBA
- Jacque Vaughn on loss (Video) - YES Network
- Kevin Durant on tough loss to Lakers (Video) - YES Network
- Joe Harris on Sunday’s loss (Video) - YES Network
- Highlights: KD vs. Los Angeles Lakers / 31 PTS (Video) - Brooklyn Nets
- Davis scores season-high 37, Lakers beat Nets to snap skid - Joe Reedy - AP
- Shorthanded Nets can’t stop Anthony Davis in loss to dismal Lakers - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Nets have no answer for Anthony Davis in loss to Lakers - Barbara Barker - Newsday
- Still no timetable for Kyrie Irving’s return to Nets - Barbara Barker - Newsday
- Nets’ Kevin Durant gives Lakers’ Russell Westbrook his props after big block - Nick Friedell - ESPN
- Nets Injury Tracker: Nic Claxton expects to play Tuesday after exiting Sunday’s loss - Danny Abriano, Ian Begley, Phillip Martinez & Alex Smith - SNY
- Listless Nets’ Inadequacy In Middle Exposed In Loss To Lakers - Steve’s Newsletter - Steve Lichtenstein
- Gallery: Nets vs. Lakers - Brooklyn Nets
- Anthony Davis puts on dominant show as LeBron-less Lakers defeat Nets - Dan Woike - Los Angeles Times