Fatigued Nets drop sixth straight in ugly loss to Kings: 3 Takeaways

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Sacramento Kings
James Johnson and Sacramento Kings forward Chimezie Metu jump for the ball during the third quarter at Golden 1 Center.
Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets suffered one of their worst losses on Wednesday night in Sacramento. A fourth-quarter lead turned into a deficit and the Nets dropped their sixth game in a row in a 112-101 loss to the Kings. It is now the longest streak in the NBA and the first six-game losing streak in Steve Nash’s tenure as head coach.

James Harden had his lowest-scoring game in nearly eight years on Wednesday night, and Nic Claxton had a team-high 23 points for the Nets in the loss. James Johson had 18 off the bench and Patty Mills and Kyrie Irving had 14 points for Brooklyn.

Here are three takeaways from the Nets loss to the Kings.

Harden Looked Off

Whether it was fatigue or something else, James Harden’s game on Wednesday looked off. He shot 2-of-11 from the field and had just four points in 37 minutes. That accounted for his lowest point total in a game he’s played over 30 minutes in since 2014 against the Memphis Grizzlies.

It came after Harden revealed earlier this week that he had been dealing with a hand injury for the previous two weeks and kept him out of Saturday’s game at Golden State. Harden indicated after the loss on Wednesday that the hand didn’t have anything to do with how he played, and head coach Steve Nash believe it had more to do with Harden being tired.

“I thought James looked tired. I thought he looked like he didn’t have his legs tonight and it was one of those nights,” Nash said.

Harden did say after the game that his hand was OK, but didn’t go into much detail.

Tale of Two Teams

For as bad as the Nets collapsed in the second half seemed, they had managed to play well enough in the first half to hold a lead. Brooklyn went into halftime with a 62-54 lead, but its offense was never able to put the Kings away, despite little resistance from Sacramento’s defense. The Nets mustard just 24 points in the third and 15 in the fourth.

Not the winning formula that they needed, which was compounded by the sloppy play late in the game from the Nets as well. The Kings scored 21 points off 14 turnovers by the Nets.

“Our level play just dropped significantly in the second half. Both sides of the ball, we let guys beat us off the dribble at a much higher rate than we did in the first half,” Nash said. “We just didn’t make shots, didn’t make plays and we looked tired frankly.”

Nash ultimately tried to remain positive after the game, but even the most glass half full observers might say that Wednesday was a step back. Kyrie Irving contended that this recent stretch had taken its toll on the team’s body and mind.

“We play in Phoenix last night and we come in today. Obviously, I’m not making excuses, it’s just the reality,” Irving said. “It’s just the reality that when you come out some guys aren’t going to have the same legs they had the night before. That’s a factor into every ball game. We all do what we can to recover and come in with a focus, but you just say tonight we run out of gas and you see some of those same habits creep up on us, where we’re giving up offensive rebounds. We’re giving up and-ones.

“It’s just facing that reality that game to game that no team is going to take it light on us. They’re going to continue to run what I call playoff-adjustment basketball.”

Career Nights for Supporting Cast

What stung a bit more for the Nets on Wednesday was the loss came as their supporting cast stepped up for them. Nic Claxton and James Johns0n each had strong showings for the Nets, while trying to will them to a win.

Claxton put up a career-high 23 points, 11 rebounds, 1 assist and 5 blocks. His 29 minutes was also a new career-high for him. Johnson had a season-best 18 points.

“I think I played well,” Claxton said. “With it being a back-to-back, being my third game back I was a little fatigued in the second half. But, my performance it doesn’t really matter. We lost the game and that’s really what matters.”