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Loss to Nuggets highlights that Nets have to be better finishers

Brooklyn Nets guards Kyrie Irving, front, and Spencer

Brooklyn Nets guards Kyrie Irving, front, and Spencer Dinwiddie head to the bench during a timeout late in the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 in Denver. The Nuggets won 101-93.  Credit: AP/David Zalubowski

CHICAGO – The NBA season is young, but in the Nets' season of soaring aspirations after all their free-agent signings, they seem to have perfected the formula for the come-from-ahead loss. It happened again Thursday in Denver, where a 16-point third-quarter lead dissolved into a 101-93 loss in which the Nets managed only 32 second-half points.

That came on the heels of blowing a 15-point halftime lead Tuesday at Utah. So, instead of a 3-1 start to their season-long five-game road trip, the Nets (4-7) are riding a three-game losing streak as they try to salvage the final game of their trip against the Bulls (4-8) Saturday night at United Center.

After shooting 53.2 percent in the first half, the Nets hit just 22.9 percent (11 of 48) from the field in the second half. “It’s kind of a microcosm of our season,” Spencer Dinwiddie said. “Nine games have been close, and we’ve only won four of them. We’re below .500 in close games. We’ve got to do a better job finishing.

“Usually, it’s on us not getting stops. This time, we did. This time, I would say our offense failed us, which is unusual.”

Kyrie Irving, who will miss Saturday night's game with a right shoulder impingement, started and played a team-high 34 minutes, scoring 17 points. However, he managed only four in the final period on 2-for-7 shooting. Asked how he felt physically, Irving said, ‘It’s OK. It’s a long road trip, so I do the best I can trying to manage it. But it’s the NBA. There’s no excuses when you actually activate and get out there and play.

“We had a lead coming out of halftime, we had a chance down the stretch. We couldn’t make shots down the stretch. They definitely played a physical game. We’ve got to give them credit.”

The Nets were without Caris LeVert, who underwent surgery on Thursday to repair right thumb ligaments. Yet, they were in a good position to win for the second straight game before blowing another double-digit lead. Irving sees it as part of the growing pains for a team with six free-agent additions, not counting the injured Kevin Durant.

“When you come out at halftime and you’re up 15 in Utah and you’re up 12 in this game, that’s a telltale sign that we still have growth in different areas, especially on the defensive end,” Irving said. “When teams make their runs, you’ve got to be able to respond in the right way, just settle ourselves down, really go into our offensive package and just run the plays that work for us. It’s just another level that you’ve got to take it to coming out of halftime. I think the last two games we failed to do so.

“It starts with all of us communicating and being there for each other and understanding there’s a trend that can start to happen if you don’t fix it now where you come out at halftime and teams jump on you. At another level, it’s just the expectation, being on a team that everyone wants to beat. Now, you’re at a different level every single night.”

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