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Late heroics from Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving fail in Nets' loss to Wizards

Kevin Durant #7 of the Nets reacts during

Kevin Durant #7 of the Nets reacts during the second half against the Washington Wizards at Barclays Center on January 03, 2021. Credit: Getty Images/Sarah Stier

Down by one in the final seconds, the Nets trusted their superstars to pull out a win, but Kyrie Irving missed a three-pointer and Kevin Durant rebounded and then missed a jumper in the paint. The Nets lost for the fourth time in five games, 123-122, to the Wizards Sunday night at Barclays Center, and they fell below .500 at 3-4.

Considering the elevated expectations for the Nets to become a super team, they are off to a shockingly slow start. But Irving downplayed the faltering first steps as natural growing pains for a team trying to get organized during a pandemic.

"I think we just have to manage realistic expectations of what we want out of this group right now every single day, week to week and then month to month," Irving said. "And then we put together a few great months of consistent work and consistent progress, consistent craft and consistent communication, and then, we’ll be OK.

"We’re committed to it, and I know the guys in the locker room, everyone in this organization is committed to that. We want to change this whole thing, and that’s not an overnight process. I didn’t commit here just for two years or three years or anything like that. So, I’m excited for the journey ahead to continue to get better . . . The team effort takes a while to get together."

Early in the final period, the teams were tied at 99 when the Nets gave up three offensive rebounds on one possession before Russell Westbrook scored to trigger a surge that saw the Wizards build a 109-103 with 6:24 left to play. Durant scored six straight points to begin an 11-2 Nets burst that gave them a 114-111 lead on a layup by Irving with 4:29 left to play.

The Wizards responded with seven straight points, but the Nets came back to lead by a point three times in the final two minutes, the last on a layup by Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot with 28.2 seconds to play. After Bradley Beal missed a three, the Wizards got the offensive rebound and scored on a go-ahead dunk by Thomas Bryant with 14.8 second left.

That set the stage for a pair of misses by the Nets’ big two at the end.

"The last shot, we had two screens on the ball, and Ky had a shot that I’m really comfortable with him taking," Nets coach Steve Nash said. "Kevin got a good look at it as well. Unlucky tonight to not make that last shot, one of the two. But we put ourselves in that position with turnovers and offensive rebounds.

"We can’t lose our minds over it and get overly frustrated. We can’t feel too much tension. There’s a lot of really good teams that are trying to find themselves and we’re new. We’ve got a first-time head coach, we’ve got a new staff, and we’ve got a bunch of guys that haven’t played together . . . We’re a little uncomfortable, and it can help us grow."

The Nets shot themselves in the foot by committing 20 turnovers leading to 23 Wizards points, and they were outscored 17-4 on second chance points after yielding 13 offensive rebounds.

It was a tough way to end after Irving scored 30 points to go with 10 assists and Durant had 28 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Beal topped the Wizards (2-5) with 27 points and 10 rebounds, Westbrook added 24 and 10 assists and Bryant totaled 21 and 14 rebounds.

"I don’t know if guys are putting too much pressure on themselves," Durant said. "Everybody wants to do well out there, and it’s some mental things we’re doing that we end up beating ourselves a little bit. We’re all on the same page."

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