Nets learn humbling lesson in loss to Clippers

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Brooklyn Nets
Jan 1, 2022; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) controls the ball against LA Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe (12) in the second quarter at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

It was a lesson the Nets would rather have learned on Saturday than later in the season or in the playoffs: Just because you’re supposed to win, doesn’t mean you will.

So no one was happy when the final buzzer sounded at Barclays Center and the Nets had allowed the shorthanded Los Angeles Clippers to walk out of Brooklyn with a win. The 120-116 result had been the Nets’ second consecutive loss, which had been the first time this season they had lost back-to-back games.

“I just think [allowing] 71 points in the second half is unacceptable,” Nets head coach Steve Nash said. “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, really. All those guys in there, I think they know it, they’re disappointed of course, but it’s a disappointment for all of us. That was obviously a very winnable game that we let get away.”

Saturday was perhaps the Nets’ most disappointing loss of the season and a reminder of what happens when you take your foot off the pedal. Brooklyn had survived a week when COVID ravaged its locker room and forced at one point 10 players out of the lineup.

Now with everyone back from protocol and two of their “Big 3” back on the court, the Nets should have handled the Clippers with relative ease. Perhaps that was the problem on Saturday night.

“We just relaxed too much,” a displeased Kevin Durant said. “We get up 10, miss a layup or turn the ball over, and they get a fast break, give up a three, straight-line drive. Like coach said, we didn’t deserve to win this game. We came in here with a F—ed-up attitude. Thinking we were just going to walk into a W.”

Durant later added: “If you ain’t feeling like s— after this game, then you got to look yourself in the mirror.”

The irony of the whole thing is how the Nets were in the Clippers’ position only a few short weeks ago. Los Angeles was without  Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and Nicolas Batum because of injuries, and head coach Ty Lue was in health and safety protocol.

“They’re going through so much over there, Durant said. “You don’t think you could lose an NBA game like this. They’re missing how many guys? They’re playing guys that are up from the G League. Xavier Moon came in and hit some shots for them. Keon Johnson, James Ennis. They all made an impact I felt on the game and I think we came in too chill to start.”

After back-to-back losses at home, the Nets will look to turn things around a bit when the Memphis Grizzlies come to town on Monday night. Brooklyn is not likely to underestimate the Grizzlies, who are 7-3 in their last 10 games.

Memphis is averaging 112.9 points while shooting 45.3% from the field.