As fans streamed through the halls of Barclays Center with the Oklahoma City Thunder posting a 112-102 victory over the Nets on Sunday night, the sensation of two short words spread throughout the stadium.
It was around this time last season, when Kevin Durant suffered a sprained MCL and Kyrie Irving was only a part-time player, that a promising season was undone. Durant’s injury, Irving’s unvaccinated status and a frustrated James Harden sent the Nets on an 11-game losing streak. They never recovered and were eventually knocked out of the first round by the Boston Celtics.
And if they don’t get their act together, another season-turning slump is on the table. The loss to Oklahoma City was the second in a row with Durant sidelined with a knee injury. Ben Simmons was also a late scratcher with a sore back.
But the Nets still had Kyrie Irving, who is supposed to be the best player on the floor when Durant is out.
It was far from it.
Irving could have been part-time on Sunday night as well. He finished with just 15 points on 7-20 shooting.
This is where the Nets find out what they have. Because this is where the pressure starts to build.
It’s one thing for Kevin Durant to be out for a month. Another is when Ben Simmons scratches late due to back pain.
It’s like losing to the Boston Celtics in the first game Durant missed with a sprained ACL in his right knee. Another is losing a 10-point lead to the Oklahoma City Thunder, even if the lottery-chasing Thunder are playing well.
Even two of Brooklyn’s three stars are out.
Sunday’s 112-102 loss to the Thunder is cause for concern because Kyrie Irving was unable to make a mark in the game. He scored 13 points before the fourth quarter and managed just one basket in the final period.
The Nets followed suit. They scored just 22 points in the fourth quarter to Oklahoma City’s 37.
Seth Curry scored a team-high 24 points off the bench and Nic Claxton finished with 17 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks. But Irving’s inability to hit shots paralyzed the team in the end. After a great scoring game, reserve forward TJ Warren also had just nine points on eight shot attempts.
Meanwhile, the Nets brought the lack of energy against a Thunder team that is now two games under .500. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey each scored 28 points and Lugentz Dort added 22. Dort’s production frustrated head coach Jacque Vaughn, who called two timeouts on consecutive possessions after the team lost Dort first on a three-pointer. open and then on an offensive rebound. tip-in immediately after the first timeout.
The loss is also disappointing because the competition only gets tougher from here. The Thunder were supposed to be one of the easier teams on the record. The Nets have 16 playoff opponents in their next 18 games, with the San Antonio Spurs, a non-playoff opponent, next on the schedule.
Vaughn said the season is about making no excuses, but the team played like Simmons’ late scratch was a reason not to bring him in. They will be destined for another losing streak if the attitude and effort don’t change. After Durant’s offseason trade request, the last thing the Nets can afford is to drop down the rankings while he’s out for the second straight season.