SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Kyrie Irving has warned his plummeting Nets can’t afford to get shaky. Alvin Gentry admitted his Kings were just that, but when they met on Wednesday, it was the Nets who had the glass jaw.
The Nets led the Kings in the final quarter, but collapsed in a stunning 112-101 loss before 13,153 at the Golden 1 Center. The loss took their losing streak to a miserable six straight, and that was by far the most infuriating.
It came after the Nets showed signs of life in tough losses to Golden State and Phoenix, the league’s top two teams. But Wednesday night they showed little valuable fighting, dropping a 9-0 run to open the fourth quarter that turned a three-point lead into a deficit they couldn’t fight back against.
The six-game skid is the Nets’ longest since losing seven in a row from Dec. 26, 2019, to Jan. 1. 7, 2020.
With dates in Utah and Denver still looming on this trip, the Nets clearly couldn’t afford to lose a trap game against a Kings team that had lost seven straight. But the Nets proved the tonic for Sacramento.
“Oh, I think we’re really fragile,” Gentry said before the game. “I think anytime you go through a losing streak like we are doing right now, I think the easiest thing to do is just give up or whatever. But I don’t think that’s what this team will do.
Sacramento showed more combat than the Nets, who got a horrible game from James Harden. Dealing with a straight strain, the All-Star guard had 12 assists but only scored four points on 2-for-11 shooting and had six turnovers.
Playing without Kevin Durant, Joe Harris and now LaMarcus Aldridge, the Nets opened their five-game Western swing with losses to the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns, the teams with the two best records in the Western Conference, and the Kings , who are between 19 and 34 years old.
Nic Claxton had a career-high 23 points and 11 boards and four blocks, but Harden’s staggering minus-21 undid that good work.
After the Lakers’ Anthony Davis and Suns’ Deandre Ayton returned from lengthy layoffs against the Nets this week, it looked like De’Aaron Fox would make it three. But the Sacramento guard, a game decision with a sore left ankle, missed a sixth straight game.
The Kings were clearly determined to stop Harden, aggressively doubling him early and daring Claxton to beat them. He was happy to oblige.
Some in the organization felt that Claxton needed to realize just how good he could become. The third-year center may be figuring it out.
And after the Nets fell 23-21 to Davion Mitchell’s finger roll with 2:54 left in the first, they clinched a 14-0 run that stretched into the second.
Irving hit two consecutive pull-up runs in transition, and 3-pointer Patty Mills capped the run for a 35-23 cushion. But they couldn’t line up enough saves to increase their lead. The Kings even cut there several times, at 45-43 on Tyrese Haliburton’s pull-up midway through the second quarter, and again at 80-78 on Harrison Barnes’ 3-pointer with 2:17 left in the game. third.
Mitchell’s corner 3 made it 84-83, but James Johnson’s pull-up to end the period gave the Nets a three-point advantage heading into the final period.
It didn’t last as the Nets went nine unanswered runs to open the fourth.
Harden’s sixth turnover led to a 3-point and Buddy Hield’s Nets five-point deficit. An ensuing technical foul against Harden gave Hield a free throw that made it 92-86.
The clock said 10:21 to play, but it was over.
New York Post