By now, the Nets have grown accustomed to making tough uphill climbs game after game, but reaching the summit of victory has eluded them more often than not lately. It happened again Wednesday night at Barclays Center as the Nets wiped out all but three points of a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit only to suffer a 100-95 loss to the Spurs.
The Spurs took control early in the third quarter with a 16-2 run that included eight points from LaMarcus Aldridge as they pushed their lead to 67-50. The Nets made only seven of 21 shots in the period.
After San Antonio’s Patty Mills hit his seventh three-pointer of the game to give the Spurs their 15-point cushion to open the final period, the Nets responded with a 14-4 run to cut the Spurs’ lead to 83-78. Joe Harris hit a trio of threes, and Allen Crabbe added a pair.
Spencer Dinwiddie, who had made just one of his first 10 shots then took over, scoring seven straight Nets points to cut their deficit to 91-88 with 2:16 left. Joe Harris had a chance to tie the game at the 1:13 mark, but his three-point attempt was errant.
That was as close as the Nets got because they missed two of four foul shots in the final minute. It was their third straight loss and sixth in the past seven games.
“That third quarter is where they made the break,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “You’re never sure why you have a lapse like that. But that team is too good to give up a run like that . . . Aldridge is a beast. We threw different guys at him.”
Allen Crabbe led the Nets (16-29) with 20 points, Harris had 18, Caris LeVert added 13, DeMarre Carroll totaled 11 and 10 rebounds and Dinwiddie finished with nine points and 13 assists. But they were no match for the efficiency of LaMarcus Aldridge, who led the Spurs (30-16) with 34 points, shooting 13-for-24, and Mills, who totaled 25 points.
Mills reached halftime shooting 5-for-5 from three-point range as they took a 51-46 lead. When the Spurs blew it open in the third quarter, the Nets found themselves digging deep once again in comeback mode.
“Patty kind of got off to a hot start, and that rhythm stuck with him throughout the course of the game,” Harris said of the hot-shooting Mills. “He got in that rhythm early, and they’re a difficult matchup when guys like him are able to make shots and then LaMarcus is playing well.”
Asked how tough it has been to play catch-up game after game, Harris said, “It’s tough. We’ve been in this position it seems like a lot, where it’s just a matter of executing down the stretch defensively and offensively. We played really well to climb back into it, and then we had a little bit of lapses in judgment. I’m not sure what it is . . . When our offense isn’t playing together, we take tough shots, and bad shots lead to easy possessions for them.”
Coming off a blowout loss to the Knicks, Atkinson stressed that he was pleased with the competitive effort and said he sees progress despite the record.
“That’s what I told the guys,” Atkinson said. “I feel like we’re getting closer. San Antonio, Toronto, Boston — these are elite teams in our league. There’s no moral victories, but I do think we’re improving and we’re getting better. On a night like tonight, we got better. We improved. How can we get over the hump and execute a little better? There are things we can clean up like Patty Mills’ five [first-half] threes.”