Nets slump extends to 5 games with loss to Suns: 3 Takeaways

Brooklyn Nets
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) dribbles the ball around Brooklyn Nets forward Blake Griffin (2) during the second half at Footprint Center.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It’s now the longest losing streak the Nets have had in two years. Brooklyn dropped its fifth straight game on Tuesday night in a 121-111 loss to the NBA-leading Phoenix Suns. It’s the first time since Jan. 14-23, 2020, that the Nets have lost that many consecutive games.

Even with the return of James Harden, it wasn’t enough to stop the Suns’ high-powered offense, which put up 39 points alone in the first quarter. Harden finished the night with 22 points, 10 assists and 5 rebounds.

Kyrie Irving led the Nets with 26 points on 10-of-20 shooting from the floor. Blake Griffin had 17 points off the bench for Brooklyn and Kessler Edwards had 13 in 29 minutes of work. Devin Booker put up a game-high 35 points for the Suns.

Here are three takeaways from the Nets’ latest loss.

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The First Quarter Made the Difference

It wasn’t so much that the Nets started slow on Tuesday night, rather they couldn’t find a way to stop the Suns’ offense when they needed to. Brooklyn and Phoenix traded buckets through the opening minutes of the period with neither team seemingly missing the basket. It was until about the 5:40 mark that both teams finally started to cool down.

Where the Nets were burned though came after that when the Suns were able to get consecutive stops on Brooklyn while converting those into points. The Suns scored five points off of seven turnovers in the first quarter.

“That was the game,” Kyrie Irving said. “Some nights teams are going to starts off hot. In the first quarter, we came to the bench and I think it was seven minutes,  or under six, on that first timeout and they were on pace to score 40 points in the first quarter. … If we could just limit some of those possessions where there’s a miscommunication on a switch or we know they’re attacking a match up.”

The Suns shot 71.4% from the field in the first quarter from the field and finished the night shooting 55.3%.

“If we get stops in that first quarter it’s probably a different ball game,” James Harden said. “Our energy is probably different, which I think we still had good energy, but it’s just difficult when guys are making tough shots and you give up 40 points.”

Was it goaltending or wasn’t it?

The Nets seemed almost unanimous in their feelings about whether or not  JaVale McGee had gotten away with a goaltend. Spoiler alert, they did. McGee questionably blocked a shot at one end and then Kessler Edwards was called for goaltending on the other end of the floor right after.

The sequence kicked off a 12-2 run for the Suns, who managed to open up a 12 point lead over the Nets late in the third.

“It didn’t help. I thought that was a goaltending and then they gave us a goaltend,” Nets head coach Steve Nash said. “But the ball had come out we thought. It was a four-point swing right there. It didn’t help. I thought we didn’t get many bounces tonight, but that’s a part of it.”

What made that sting, even more, was that Brooklyn has started out the third with a quick 7-0 run that catapulted them into the lead. A 7-0 run by Phoenix swung the momentum and the goaltend sequence added to that.

“Yes, was it? I mean did ya’ll see it,” Harden responded when asked about the play. He stopped short of commenting further on it.

There are positives

The Nets have dropped five straight, but there is certainly some good to take away from their recent stretch, including Tuesday’s loss. Brooklyn hung with the NBA’s best team for nearly 48 minutes and their roster is learning to play with one another despite a lack of cohesion this year.

“You can see we’re executing at times better,” Nash said. “Our resolve is growing. There’s a deeper understanding of what we’re asking for, and there’s also that cohesion. A lot of guys in these rotations haven’t played together much and so trying to get time on the court together it’s all brand new for them. That’s a part of it that takes time, too, and they’re developing those bonds and that cohesion, and it might take a while, but we’re taking baby steps there.”