Lakers forward LeBron James is fouled by Nets forward Noah...

Lakers forward LeBron James is fouled by Nets forward Noah Clowney in the second half of an NBA game at Barclays Center on Sunday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

INDIANAPOLIS — The Nets’ loss Sunday was another reminder of what they had and where they are now. They used to be a team with stars but they’re currently a team star watching.

Nic Claxton could only look as LeBron James drained the last two of his nine three-pointers in his vicinity. Cam Thomas scored 30 points but was an afterthought with James joining Michael Jordan as the only NBA players with multiple 40-point games after turning 39 years old.

“There's not much you can do with that once somebody's 9-for-10 from three,” Thomas said of James. “So, you just got to tip your hat to him and just appreciate it.”

The Barclays Center crowd did that giving James a rousing ovation. It’s understandable because greatness should be saluted. James also fueled that feeling after the game by telling reporters he knows his career is near the end as he wraps up his 21st regular season.

Yet it wasn’t that long ago the Nets were a dazzling show worthy of similar attention. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant could be counted on for epic performances that’d be talked about the next day.

Now the Nets are barely mentioned. Their play-in tournament hopes could end this week with the Hawks’ magic number to clinch the final play-in spot down to three.

James’ performance showed once again what the Nets are missing. It is a player who can carry a team on his back to finish a game. Someone who can take his game up another level and break a team’s spirit.

“You can't get down by 20 points against this team, they're just too talented,” interim coach Kevin Ollie said of the Lakers. “They just have too many guys that can create their own shot and they played very, very well tonight.”

One could argue Thomas is that person next to Mikal Bridges. He had maybe the finest month of his NBA career in March averaging 26.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists. His 20-point half Sunday help chip the Nets’ deficit from 26 to eight.

Yet that was forgotten when James made his fourth three-pointer of the fourth quarter. That’s not Thomas’ fault but it shows the Nets don’t have the type of floor-raising player that some other teams have.

Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell made a go-ahead three-pointer to beat the Nets in the season opener. Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard scored 14 points during a 22-0 run to close out the Nets.

The Pacers, who the Nets face Monday and Wednesday, have that with Tyrese Haliburton. Haliburton keyed a 13-2 third-quarter run that sunk the Nets when they traveled to Indiana on March 16.

Thomas and Bridges are a fine 1-2 punch but this season has shown their limits. The Nets will also be limited this offseason in their efforts to find another star player.

Ten players on their 15-man roster are signed through next season and Keita Bates-Diop has a player-option. Nic Claxton is a free agent the Nets will try to re-sign but he’ll command a contract at a minimum of $20 million.

Add in Ben Simmons’ $40.3 million salary next season and that leaves little wiggle room to sign a big-name free agent. Maybe a trade is possible but are the Nets willing to part with a top player to do so? That might be their only way a deal is conceivable.

It all just means the Nets could be stuck where they are for a while. It’s a harsh reality but one that’s more clear as the season winds down.

They’re good enough to be in close games. They just don’t have a player like James to help finish them and one isn’t coming soon barring a drastic move.

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