For much of the game, the Nets’ “Pair of Point Guards” were more than a match for the 76ers’ new “Big Three” of Jimmy Butler, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
D’Angelo Russell scored his Nets career high of 38 points and got a 31-point assist from Spencer Dinwiddie, but Butler did them in. His right-wing three-pointer with four-tenths of a second left gave the 76ers a 127-125 win Sunday night at Barclays Center.
Butler largely was held in check through the first three periods, scoring 16 points and shooting 4-for-13, but you knew it couldn’t last. He scored 18 points in the fourth quarter and shot 7-for-7, including four three-pointers.
Just before Butler’s game-winner, Dinwiddie buried a foul-line jumper with 26 seconds left to give the Nets a one-point lead. JJ Redick then missed a shot for the 76ers, but a scramble for the rebound resulted in a jump ball between Butler and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Butler controlled the tip, and after a timeout, the 76ers set up an isolation for Butler.
Hollis-Jefferson contested the shot with a hand in Butler’s face, but his right-wing three broke the Nets’ hearts.
“It’s a shame,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “Heck of a basketball game. Led for most of the game and it’s one of those you think you deserve to win and they pull it out at the end.
“They hit some tough shots. Butler’s shot at the end was a heck of a shot. We got our best defender on him. So be it.”
It was the third straight loss for the Nets (8-13), who blew a 20-point second-quarter lead. They got 17 points and 10 rebounds from Jarrett Allen and shot a season-high 56.8 percent for the game.
Butler led the 76ers (14-8) with 34 points. Embiid added 32 points and 12 rebounds and Simmons had 13 points and nine assists.
The Nets led by 13 points with less than six minutes left, but the 76ers put together a 16-2 run and took a 121-120 lead on Redick’s three-pointer with 1:03 to play.
The Nets shot 1-for-8 in that stretch with a turnover and two missed foul shots.
Joe Harris put the Nets in front with a three-pointer, but Embiid converted a three-point play at the other end to put the 76ers ahead by one.
Now it was Dinwiddie’s turn, and he delivered his go-ahead jumper, but the Nets wound up with another stinging loss.
“It’s tough,” Russell said. “We played 45 minutes of that game and lost it on one shot, but we gave ourselves a chance. Ending it like that, you can’t really dwell on that type of loss. You have guys capable of making those shots day in and day out in this league.”
Harris defended Butler part of the night, and he agreed with the suggestion that the result simply was a case of a great player taking over at the end.
“Great players make plays down the stretch,” Harris said. “He’s a great player and has been for a long time in this league, and he’s not going to be silent the whole game.”
The real shame for the Nets was seeing Russell and Dinwiddie play as well as they ever have together, only to see their 69-point night go to waste.
“I’m proud of him,” Atkinson said of Russell. “I thought he struggled the last couple games, and he really came back and was a big reason why we were ahead most of the game. He had a fantastic game. Spencer backed him up, too, with a good game.
“Tough loss for the Nets. We played a pretty good game and couldn’t pull it out at the end.”