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Nets looking to fix fourth-quarter breakdowns

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant works to the

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant works to the basket against Dallas Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith on May 6, 2021.  Credit: AP/Tony Gutierrez

During their season-worst four-game losing streak, it has seemed the fourth quarter is where the Nets’ hopes for victory go to die. They have been outscored in four straight fourth quarters while shooting a miserable 35.9% from the field and a barely passable 34.0% from three-point range.

In particular, the Nets yielded two back-breaking fourth-quarter runs in their past two losses. On Tuesday, the Bucks put together an 18-1 run to take control, and on Thursday, the Mavericks fashioned a 13-2 charge to the lead. The Nets allowed their opponents to hit 55.6% of their fourth-quarter shots in those two games (25-for-45).

Asked about the two fourth-quarter runs they gave up, Joe Harris admitted, "It’s definitely concerning, I think the fourth quarter is obviously when you’re hoping to be at your sharpest."

Kevin Durant has struggled with his fourth-quarter shooting in the past three losses, going 5-for-22 overall and 2-for-9 from three-point range. Kyrie Irving had 15 fourth-quarter points against the Mavs, but over those same three games, he has gone 9-for-21 overall and 4-for-13 from three.

Durant faulted himself for a 7-for-21 outing against the Mavs, including his 1-for-10 effort in the second half.

"I’ve got to make those shots," Durant said. I feel like, if I would have made them, I would’ve settled the team down . . . Tonight, I tried shots I shouldn’t have tried. Sometimes, that pushes me out of the game when I try those tough ones.

"It’s all a learning experience. I’m glad it’s happening now for us instead of in a couple of weeks. I hope we feel this pain from losing, feeling like we’re not where we want to be."

Irving noted that teams like the Trail Blazers, Bucks and Mavericks, who have handed them the past four losses, all are high-quality teams working to improve their playoff seeding, and the same holds true when the Nets (43-24) face the Nuggets (44-22) Saturday night in Denver.

Irving said these tests will be good for the Nets in terms of preparing them for the playoffs. "Our level of play has to match or overpower, overmatch our opponent," Irving said of the fourth-quarter intensity at winning time. "When teams go on runs, we have to be able to respond. We need to be tested like that. We’re not a perfect basketball club . . . We haven’t played well in terms of spurts throughout the game, especially when it matters.

"[Isolation] basketball down the stretch is not going to get us over the hump. We have to run some plays, some quality possessions and then figure out a balance where we’re special with our ‘iso’ game. So finding a balance right now, but it’s good for us."

Harris said no one in the Nets’ locker room is worried or is feeding into a negative narrative. "If anything it gives us probably more of a sense of urgency to go out and get a win," he said. "So our next game against Denver — we know the playoffs are right around the corner — so the level of focus is definitely amplified a bit. There is definitely a certain sense of urgency to get a win."

New York Sports