The Nets got an early start on Black Friday, tipping off shortly after noon at Barclays Center. But they didn’t find the perfect gift they wanted — a set of keys to closing out a close game.
After competitive losses against three-peat finalists Golden State and Cleveland, the Nets also three-peated — for the third straight game, they didn’t do what they needed to do near the end.
This time they turned over a six-point lead with 2:20 left and lost to the Portland Trail Blazers, 127-125.
Diary of a young team.
“I think that the hardest thing in the NBA is to close games,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “We saw it the other night in Cleveland; played really well for three quarters and then . . . There are great players on these other teams that are determined not to let you win, and I think that was a little bit the case [against Portland]. They relied on their experience.
“But it’s also a positive experience for us. We can look at this and say, ‘How can we close games? What can we do better?’ ”
Spencer Dinwiddie scored 23 points and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 17 for the Nets (6-12).
“None of the guys in the locker room play for moral victories,” Dinwiddie said.
The Nets earned an actual victory at Portland on Nov. 10. But the Trail Blazers (11-8) feature a formidable backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum and a 7-foot tower in Jusuf Nurkic. Lillard had 34 points and nine assists, Nurkic posted 29 points and 15 rebounds, and McCollum contributed 26 points.
“We had to fight for it,” Lillard said. “We were down down the stretch and obviously happy with the things that we had to do to make it happen.”
Allen Crabbe scored on a floater at the 2:20 mark, giving the Nets a 121-115 lead. But with the Nets up by one, Shabazz Napier drove for two points, got fouled and made it a three-point play with 55.5 seconds left to give Portland a 123-121 edge.
Dinwiddie followed up on his own miss to tie it, but Nurkic made a layup, was fouled and completed a three-point play to make it 126-123 with 27.6 seconds left. That sequence came after Nurkic had a shot blocked and then got a steal.
“I learn to never quit and there’s no lost possession until the game is done,” Nurkic said.
With the Nets down 127-125, Dinwiddie missed a three-pointer with four seconds left that bounced off the rim twice.
“I felt like it was a good look,” he said.
At the end, the Nets still were looking for those keys to closing the door.
“We’re still trying to figure it out,” Crabbe said. “It’s still early in the season. But at some point, I think it will turn the way we want it to go.”