Jared Dudley, who has seen pretty much everything in his 12 NBA seasons, could only shake his head and marvel at how the Nets blew a 20-point fourth-quarter lead — their NBA-high eighth blown double-digit lead this season — in a 114-112 loss to the Thunder Wednesday night at Barclays Center.
“It’s like the ‘Groundhog Day’ movie,” Dudley said of the classic featuring Bill Murray reliving the same day over and over. “We literally do nine or 10 things to lose the game. Some of it is mental.”
Asked if the Nets have begun to think “here we go again,” whenever well-played games and double-digit leads begin unraveling, Dudley said, “I think so. It’s human nature…I thought we played Brooklyn basketball for 90 percent of the game. But we get a little anxious because we haven’t had success.”
The Nets held a lead of 23 points during the third quarter. The return of forward Joe Harris after a three-game absence with a strained adductor helped the offense and so did a hot-shooting game by Allen Crabbe, who nailed seven three-pointers. But their recurring nightmare continued when Paul George scored 25 of his 47 poilnts in the fourth quarter to lead the Thunder comeback.
“It’s frustrating because it seems to be kind of a repetitive theme to a lot of these games,” said Harris, who had 19 points. “We’re just not able to lock in, execute down the stretch, put things away…If it’s a battle of wills and we’re trying to get a win, we’ve got to step up and take some ownership, some personal pride collectively, get some stops, get rebounds, get the 50-50 balls. There were 50-50 balls at the end that we didn’t get, and those are the winning plays that we need in order to finish out and close games down the stretch.”
Dudley faulted the Nets for a lack of side-to-side ball movement in the fourth period when the Thunder forced them to play more isolation ball.
“Right now, we’re not good enough to go one-on-one and score at a high rate,” said Dudley, who added that the Nets miss injured Caris LeVert, who was their best one-on-one player. “Caris is not coming back anytime soon. He masked a lot of stuff.”
Historic comeback for Thunder
The 23-point comeback was the largest in franchise history for the Thunder. “It wasn’t pretty at times, but it’s a resilient group, a competitive group, a group that wants to win,” said Thunder coach Billy Donovan, a Rockville Centre native. “We didn’t defend the three very well, we got hurt on the offensive glass in the first half, we turned it over. Some of those things got corrected in the second half, and that allowed us to get back in the game.”