The nets invaded the Eastern Conference in Milwaukee. After being swept by the Bucks in a huge two-game set, they stumbled as close to third as they were to first place.
A fourth quarter collapse cost the Nets a humble 124-118 defeat a sold out crowd of 3,280 spectators in the Fiserv Forum. It may take time for the regular season to end and the playoff seeds to know exactly how much it cost.
After the Nets (43-23) hit town half a game before the 76ers in the east, they lost Sunday and Tuesday to end their worst season with a third straight defeat. They are 1½ games behind Philadelphia and only 1½ before Milwaukee. The nets have also lost the season tiebreaker against the bucks and are only one game ahead in the loss column.
If the pride of the nets was not stung after this, it should have been so. They were five points ahead in the fourth quarter and weren’t tough enough or hungry enough or physically enough during a crucial 18-1 run.
« It’s not necessarily the strength of our squad, but there’s no excuse for it not trying to keep up with the other team or be more physical, « said coach Steve Nash. « This is something that we have to stress and grow into. »
Kyrie Irving had a game high of 38 points and Kevin Durant added 32. But Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 36 and the nets were torn into the glass. They were exceeded 55-39, of which 15-6 in the offensive boards.
How bad it was. The goat guard Donte DiVincenzo received as many offensive rebounds on his own as the entire roster of the nets.
« I am definitely disappointed we got overworked. They were more physical than us on either end of the floor. That can’t happen, « said Blake Griffin. » We have to adjust the intensity. You can control that. It’s up to us.
“We can’t let guards come in and affect the game like they did.” Donte DiVincenzo had six offensive rebounds: That can’t happen. We have to want it more and be the more physical team on either end of the floor. «
On offense, the Nets only scored nine second chance points. They only walked 16-for-26 from the free-throw line. And with James Harden still having a right hamstring strain, no player other than Durant has and Irving beat 12 points.
« Yeah, we had a bad track, » said Nash. « It was a photo of the night in general, that they were overall more physical than us on both ends of the floor.
» We switched teams more or less several times, so we have a gap to balance our mutual understanding. » And as we close that void, we need to be more physical, win 50-50 balls, and do the dirty work. «
The nets led 103-97 after Mike James (10 points) came off the bench to hit a 3-pointer and complete a 25-12 run that spanned the third and fourth quarters. But they did suddenly went freezing.
The nets were 5-0 with a couple of turnovers during Bucks’ 18-1 run that lasted over four minutes, Milwaukee meanwhile went eight to 14, including an all-too-easy drive from Khris Middleton (23 points) His floater met no defensive resistance and let the nets play at 5:52 in a hole of 115-104.
« Your team got hot, » said Durant. « We haven’t recovered enough. They shot 14 more shots than we did and a team like that can’t allow that. «
Nash didn’t call time off during the crucial run. And while he admitted that maybe he should have, neither he nor the Nets thought it would have made any difference.
» Maybe I should « said Nash. » But at the same time, I don’t think that would make much of a difference at this point. «
The nets have mounted a 10-3 spurt to get on a pair of Irving- within 122-118 Scratching free throws with one minute left. But they couldn’t get over the hump.
« We’ve overworked. So what, you’re going to call time out and say what? Griffin asked rhetorically.
« That should just be something we can see visually and know we can do a better job. »
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