The losses for the Brooklyn Nets are piling up on their record and their roster.
Not only did Brooklyn lose to the Dallas Mavericks, 111-104, on Sunday afternoon, but point guard Jeremy Lin suffered a right ankle sprain in the first quarter and did not return. The Nets’ league-worst record (13-56) suffered another blow while the Mavericks (30-39) continue their effort to potentially finish the season with a.500 record.
Returning to Barclays Center for the first time since December 23, 2015, when he passed Shaquille O’Neal for sixth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, Dirk Nowitzki was his usual self: 23 points and nine rebounds in 27 minutes. After a season-worst 42-point loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, the Mavericks showed a renewed confidence in Brooklyn.
“Yeah, I thought we came out with a lot more energy, focus, and just had a little bit more pep in our step from the beginning,” Nowitzki said after the game. “We took the lead early and that was big. We kind of played from behind the last couple of weeks and today we stepped out early, moved the ball, got some steals, had a lot of defensive presence about ourselves and that set a good tone for us.”
The Nets trailed by 14 points at halftime but managed to cut the Mavericks’ lead to just four in the third quarter. However, with less than three minutes left in the game, Mavericks guard J.J. Barea sank a jumper and a trey that bolstered the team’s narrow two-point lead to a seven-point lead with 2:16 remaining.
— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) March 19, 2017
Barea, who finished with 20 points and seven assists, saw Nets center Brook Lopez back off the perimeter to defend teammate Nerlens Noel in the paint. That gave Barea enough room to take and make his two dagger jumpers. However, Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson believes that his team’s perseverance was the true story.
“To me, the story of the game was getting down 18 in the first half. I thought the second half we brought it, we brought the energy, we were competitive, we were going towards a 40-point blowout quite honestly in that first half the way we came out,” Atkinson said. “We dug ourselves a huge hole, and we used a lot of energy to get back in it, then couldn’t close it, we didn’t have enough to get over the hump.”
After Thursday’s route of the New York Knicks, the Nets suffered a St. Patrick’s Day loss to the Boston Celtics on Friday and were looking to finish the week at.500. Brook Lopez scored a game-high 27 points, shooting 50 percent (three-for-six) from beyond the arc. As a team, Brooklyn shot 41.9 percent (13-for-31) from three-point range.
However, it was Dallas’ inside game that made the difference late in the game, especially Harrison Barnes’ (19 points, six rebounds) acrobatic layup with time winding down.
Play. Of. The. Game.???? pic.twitter.com/fk99n4M3fL
— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) March 19, 2017
Lopez felt the Nets let another winnable game slip away.
“(Harrison) Barnes made some tough shots in the post through a couple of our guys. I thought the right help was there, but I don’t think I did a good enough job in the pick and roll down the stretch,” Lopez said.
“It was definitely unfortunate because, again, we were in the position at the end. I really feel like it was a lot of stuff we could have done better, and I think it starts with me.”
It’s become a common theme this season: the Nets may be without Lin for a prolonged stretch. In the first year of a three-year, $36 million commitment to the Harvard product, the Nets have been frustrated with their return.
Entering Sunday’s contest, Lin had missed 45 of the Nets’ 68 games due to strained left hamstring. With just 13 games left in the season, it’s possible Lin’s latest injury ends his frustrating 2016-17 campaign.
“It looks like a sprain,” Atkinson said on Lin’s injury. “We’ll evaluate him and have an update tomorrow.”
Caris LeVert, who scored five points and rebounds in the loss said Lin was “in good spirits” after the injury.
Lin is averaging 14.1 points and 5.1 assists per game in 24 contests this year.
Lin’s early exit gave Spencer Dinwiddie and Isaiah Whitehead to play 30 and 23 minutes, respectively. Dinwiddie responded well, scoring 18 points and dishing seven assists off the bench; Whitehead added 10 points.
“Jeremy is a veteran guard so he knows the game. He knows what we need at certain points in the game, but like I said Isaiah especially did a great job,” LeVert said.
Dinwiddie committed a crucial turnover that led to one of Barea’s game-sealing jumpers with 2:30 minutes left. However, losing Lin was just one of several things that went wrong in Brooklyn’s 56th loss.
“We came back in the second half and we kind of made a run of our own so I wouldn’t say that’s the reason why we lost the game today,” LeVert added.
[Featured Image by Kathy Willens/AP Images]