Reeling from Warriors loss, Nets know they don’t belong in elite category yet

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Brooklyn Nets
James Harden and Kevin Durant.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

A mammoth matchup featuring the Brooklyn Nets and the Golden State Warriors at Barclays Center on Tuesday night was supposed to provide great theatre between two of the NBA’s perceived powerhouses and title favorites this season.

Instead, after a 117-99 walkabout by the Warriors, the Nets were left admitting that they have quite a bit of work to do before they can be classified in the same stratosphere as Golden State.

“Well, I just don’t think we’re in that category yet,” Nets head coach Steve Nash said. “We have a lot of work to do. We’re trying to improve as a group, get better, and hopefully, we can find a way to overcome some of our deficiencies by the end of the year.”

Those deficiencies were on full display as Brooklyn’s puzzling lack of offensive consistency prevailed yet again. After shooting 39.1% from the field and 10-for-36 (27.8%) from three-point range, the Nets’ offensive efficiency rating ranks 18th in the NBA this season — a remarkably astounding ranking considering this is a team that has two of this generations finest scorers in Kevin Durant and James Harden.

“We have to find our identity,” Harden said. “We’re still a brand-new team, so we still have to find out what we’re good at, what we’re great at, what we can be great at. It’s going to take a long season. But we’re, what, 14, 15 games in? So tonight’s game doesn’t really affect us at all.

“I don’t think anybody knows themselves well. Maybe the Warriors, because they’ve been together for a long time.”

At 10-5, the Nets sit in third place in the Eastern Conference, well within reaching distance of the first-place Washington Wizards (one game back) and second-place Chicago Bulls (half-game back). But Brooklyn has had problems beating the better teams of the NBA this season. They’re 0-4 now in matchups against the Warriors, Bulls, Miami Heat, and the defending-champion Milwaukee Bucks.

“We’re just trying to get better every game,” Harden said. “The goal is to be the best team at the end of the season, in the postseason. That’s the goal. But probably not [close to an elite team now]. We’re probably nowhere near. But it’s a long season for us to get better, and we will continue to get better.”

No need to hit the panic button, yet.

“It’s all part of the journey and understanding what level you need to be at every possession,” Durant said. “This was a great test for us.”