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Brooklyn Nets melt away in second half, lose to Golden State Warriors 109-98

Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors came into the Barclays Center, took Brooklyn’s crowd, then took their lunch money.

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Golden State Warriors v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The Brooklyn Nets led the Golden State Warriors 49-43 after one half of basketball at the Barclays Center on Monday night; it was not the finest display of NBA hoops, with the teams combining to shoot 8-of-37 from three. The defenses certainly played their part — Brooklyn’s more so than their guests’ — but the disjointed nature of the first 24 minutes worked to the home team’s advantage.

After all, the Barclays Center crowd had shown up in large part to cheer on Steph Curry and his Warriors. The basketball is the main thing, but Brooklyn’s early defensive dominance didn’t just stymie their opponent, it silenced the crowd. Behind Nic Claxton, who would record seven blocks on the night, the Nets successfully dragged the contest into the mud...

Brooklyn’s most reliable source of offense was once again transition, even in Ben Simmons’ scheduled absence (injury maintenance). They turned the Dubs over nine times in the first half, with a ton of credit going to Dennis Smith Jr., who frequently stepped in for a foul-trouble-riddled Cam Thomas...

“I did think we had some good looks, especially early in the game,” said Jacque Vaughn. “I felt like we should have been up more at halftime.”

The frenetic pace, though, would be difficult to preserve for the Nets; their rotation — already missing Simmons, Day’Ron Sharpe, and Dorian Finney-Smith — shrunk again after Lonnie Walker IV exited early with left hamstring tightness. Jacque Vaughn opted not to send Trendon Watford or Harry Giles III into the game, and thus, seven Nets would battle it out.

The first play of the second half was a poor omen. After communicating so effectively in the first half, applying ball-pressure while refusing to surrender the infamous back-cuts and slips the Warriors’ offense is designed to produce, a Steph Curry ghost-screen for Jonathan Kuminga broke Brooklyn’s defense...

Two defenders went to Steph, and the Dubs’ most impressive athlete soared for a dunk on his way to 28 points.

As the Nets’ defense fell back to Earth, their offense descended to the core. Golden State set their sights on Cam Johnson, who led Brooklyn with 13 first-half points as their only player who could make a jumper, and locked him down.

Nobody else picked up the mantle, not in the third quarter nor in the fourth, where Johnson exited with adductor soreness. Cam Thomas led the way with 18 points on, ugh, 4-of-21 shooting, but even more troubling was that the quick decision-maker we saw against the Philadelphia 76ers had vanished.

Thomas, though, wasn’t willing to heap praise on Golden State’s defense for his poor night: “They ain’t do nothing at all. I was just missing. Went to the basket, didn’t get some calls I would like to have, but they didn’t do nothing.”

Mikal Bridges shot just 5-of-15 for 13 points, popping in here and there for a nice drive, but little more. By game’s end, he was wearing his 43 minutes of playing time. As for Spencer Dinwiddie, he showed more aggression than his recent standards, but a 3-of-12 night from the floor wasn't quite enough.

Said Vaughn: “I think we gave away some possessions whether it was in transition, in the second half where I definitely went back to the bench and said, ‘We need to value and take care of each possession.’ So, those words did come out of my mouth in the second half.”

The Nets held on until the end of the third quarter, when the visitors turned their physicality up to a level Brooklyn didn’t — or couldn’t — match. The Warriors grabbed nine offensive rebounds in the second half, and frankly, they deserved all of them. No fluky bounces or bad luck here...

The Nets were soft and small with their starting center on the bench, but even when Claxton was on the court, he often switched onto the perimeter in an effort to slow down Curry, who’d finish with 29 points and a few signature buckets to ignite the crowd.

Eventually, all of Brooklyn’s issues compounded into one overwhelming mess, and Claxton let his frustrations get the best of him. He took an upstairs swipe at Brandin Podziemski and was ejected for a flagrant-2 which marked the unofficial end of this one...

Royce O’Neale caught a brief heater, shooting 5-of-6 from deep in the fourth quarter to keep the Nets in it. But really, the veteran forward was just padding an otherwise atrocious stat-sheet. Even with his efforts, Brooklyn finished the night 13-of-42 from deep, or 31%.

Point to the lopsided rebounding numbers (60-38), point to Brooklyn’s pathetic half-court offense, which took poor shots but even missed open ones, point to the crowd full of Steph Curry fans if you wish. Sprinkle a bit of ire on the referees, too. Hell, blame all of the above on the seven-man rotation Jacque Vaughn deployed, with no Watford or Giles in sight.

On Giles, the Brooklyn Head Coach reasoned, “I thought tonight’s coverage for Harry would be pretty tough, as far as the screens and everything.”

On Watford? “I just wanted to go back with Dennis. We play tomorrow and I thought I was gonna ride that group tonight. Just concerned about tonight.”

No matter the suspect of your choosing, the Brooklyn Nets did not deserve a win on Monday night. They did not respond to adversity, never coming to a breaking point in regards to their own physicality and decision-making. Instead, the Golden State Warriors broke them.

Final Score: Golden State Warriors 109, Brooklyn Nets 98

Milestone Watch

More milestones than you may expect from a loss like that.

  • Nic Claxton’s seven blocked shots are a career-high.
  • Brooklyn’s ten blocked shots match a season-high, previously done on November 8th vs. the L.A. Clippers.
  • Royce O’Neale’s five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter were the most made by a Net in any quarter this season, matching the franchise record for threes made in a fourth quarter. Quick, take a guess who he tied. That’s right, Nik Stauskas (12/27/17).

Injury Update

Prior to the frustrating loss, Vaughn spoke about the immediate futures for the absent Ben Simmons and Dorian Finney-Smith. The head coach clarified that this was a planned absence for Simmons on the first night of a back-to-back, and he is indeed “scheduled to play” on Tuesday night.

As for Dorian Finney-Smith, the Nets are still categorizing him as day-to-day with that left ankle sprain, but Vaughn confirmed the potential trade-deadline target is “not on track to play” on Tuesday night either.

In postgame, Vaughn could not provide an update on either Walker’s hamstring or Johnson’s adductor, as we wait for Tuesday's initial injury report.

A couple of other things to watch: Mikal Bridges played 42:31 last night. No, we wouldn’t expect him to end his Ironman streak, but he looked gassed at game’s end. Also, if the Nets make a trade Tuesday, 48 hours prior to the deadline, don’t expect players coming or going to be on the court Tuesday. Unless physicals are waived, trades won’t be officially complete until team doctors examine those traded and give their okay.

Next Up

Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Another return. This time, it’s Kyrie Irving with the Dallas Mavericks, though the ex-Net did miss six games before playing in Philly on Monday night. There are no guarantees he plays the second night of a back-to-back in the borough. We will know his status by around 1:00 p.m. ET, though thanks to Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News, we already know Irving's thoughts on his return:

Whether Irving dresses or not, the Nets will take on the Mavs at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday night from the Barclays Center.