Coming off a collapse in the final two minutes of a gut-wrenching loss Friday in New Orleans, the Nets came home to face the two-time defending champion Warriors Sunday evening at Barclays Center and found themselves trailing by 19 points late in the third period. But Nets coach Kenny Atkinson believes in the resiliency of his players, and they didn’t let him down.
They didn’t win, either, but they showed their grit in a 37-point fourth-quarter effort that cut their deficit to a mere two points before they lost to the Warriors’ firepower, 120-114. The Warriors’ big three of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson combined for 87 points.
Curry totaled 35, including 7-of-15 three-point shooting, Durant added 34 plus eight rebounds and six assists, and Thompson scored 18 for the Warriors (6-1). D’Angelo Russell led the Nets (2-4) with 25 points and had six assists, Caris LeVert added 23 and seven assists, and Allen Crabbe found some rhythm in a 14-point effort. The Nets shot 47.6 percent from three-point range (20 of 42), but they got outscored on fast-break points, 19-2, and allowed the Warriors 23 points on 15 turnovers.
At halftime, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson faulted his team for a lack of first-half effort, and it lit a spark. “We talked before the game about us bouncing back from a tough loss in New Orleans,” Atkinson said. “The way the first half went, we easily could have folded, and that’s not the type of guys we have in that locker room. They’re a resilient bunch. It’s good for the fans to see we didn’t just succumb to their talent and their aura, so to speak.”
The Nets never got closer than 12 points in the third period and saw the deficit slip back to 19. But Spencer Dinwiddie hit a three before the buzzer that began a stretch in which they made nine of 12 shots, including eight threes, to ignite an extended 34-17 run that cut the Warriors’ lead to 110-108 when Russell made a layup with 1:55 left. But from there, Curry and Durant outscored the Nets, 10-6, to preserve the win.
“I thought the Nets battled the whole way,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We had them on the ropes several times.”
Russell, LeVert and Crabbe combined to make six of 10 threes in the final period. “Our competitive nature wasn’t really there in the first half,” Russell said. “In the second half, we turned it up. They’re a great defensive team. To get that many points on them (37 in fourth quarter) is definitely a compliment, but we’ve got to figure out a way to get it going at the start and not just the second half.”
The Nets visit the Knicks Monday night at Madison Square Garden, but they can go in on a positive vibe after their comeback. “We try not to have a lot of moral victories,” LeVert said. “Obviously, it was a tough one in New Orleans. We feel we should have won that one. It’s very encouraging to see we can compete with these teams, but I think the next step is winning these games.”