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Shorthanded Nets had problems exposed in loss to Mavericks

Nets head coach Steve Nash reacts during a

Nets head coach Steve Nash reacts during a time out during the fourth quarter against the Dallas Mavericks at Barclays Center on Saturday, Feb 27, 2021. Credit: Brad Penner

Considering the Nets had won eight straight games, including seven without Kevin Durant, before their winning streak was snapped by the Mavericks on Saturday night at Barclays Center, it might be overkill to make too much of one regular-season loss.

But it highlighted weaknesses the Nets must address to rebound on their two-game Texas road trip that starts Monday night in San Antonio and concludes Wednesday in Houston before the All-Star break.

The Nets (22-13) have grown accustomed to playing shorthanded because Durant has been ruled out of his eighth and ninth straight games before the break while recovering from a left hamstring strain. But the loss of Kyrie Irving, who was rested against the Mavericks, and Tyler Johnson, who sat out with a migraine headache, was too much to handle.

Irving and Johnson are expected back against the Spurs (17-12), but center Jeff Green (right shoulder contusion) and forward Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (right knee soreness) are questionable.

James Harden blamed the manpower shortage for the Nets’ letdown against the Mavericks. "We ran out of juice," he said. "We couldn’t get our shots off. Defensively, we couldn’t get stops, mental mistakes on both ends . . . just small details that we needed to win this game, especially being down a number of guys."

Green said the Nets are a "no-excuse team" and simply didn’t play well enough to overcome their depth problem against a terrific Mavericks offense. More important, he cited the ballhandling problems that have cropped up periodically for the Nets. They committed 19 turnovers that led to 32 Mavericks points and scored a meager six points off nine Mavericks turnovers.

"They were aggressive on defense, jumping into passing lanes, made us speed up a little bit," Green said. "Forced us to turn the ball over and they scored on the opposite end. In order for us to win, especially when we have guys out, we have to do better. We have to take care of the ball, we have to make sure we get a good shot every time, and we can’t allow their defense to turn us over like that."

Coach Steve Nash said the Mavericks’ tremendous size, including 7-3 Kristaps Porzingis, 6-10 Maxi Kleber and 6-7, 230-pound All-Star point guard Luka Doncic, exposed the small Nets lineup he favors.

"When you can’t match them offensively and have the weapons we normally have, your defense has to be exceptional," Nash said. "We were small and they were extremely big, especially that starting unit. That was a factor for sure."

Lack of depth, poor ballhandling and a failure to focus on defense as well as they did throughout their winning streak all figured into the end of the Nets’ run.

"I think everyone is frustrated that we had shorter options [against the Mavericks]," Nash said. "You’re missing two All-Star starters, but beyond that, Jeff went out and Tyler couldn’t play. It stretched everything and put us in territory where a lot of guys hadn’t had a lot of minutes together. So frustrating, but that’s the nature of this season."

New York Sports