In what has largely been, and is expected to continue to be, a forgettable season, this was the Nets’ opportunity to accomplish something that would be remembered throughout history.
And that was to hand the Golden State Warriors a loss, stopping what has been the most memorable opening to a season in sports history.
The Nets held a second-half lead against the Warriors for the second time this season, but once again, perfection was not to be denied.
The Nets, who turned a 17-point first-half deficit into a five-point third-quarter advantage, fell to the Warriors, 114-98, Sunday night at Barclays Center with owner Mikhail Prokhorov in attendance.
The Warriors improved to 22-0 and extended their winning streak to 26 games, dating to last season, for the third-longest streak in NBA history. They trail the 1971-72 Lakers, who won 33 straight, and the 2012-2013 Miami Heat, which won 27.
The Warriors next play Indiana on Tuesday night in the fifth game of a seven-game road trip.
“I don’t think I’ve been 22-0 in my life, so who would have thought it would be my seventh year in the NBA,” Curry said.
Brook Lopez’s bank shot from the top of the key and a three-pointer by Shane Larkin gave the Nets a 75-70 lead with 3:10 left in the third. But the Warriors closed the quarter on a 17-5 run, with Curry scoring 16 of his 28 points in the quarter.
His one-handed runner off the glass tied the score at 76 with 2:10 left in the third. The next time down, he hit a pull-up three to put the Warriors up 79-76 with 1:45 left. Lopez’s hook pulled the Nets within 79-78, but after a missed three by Bojan Bogdanovic, Curry lobbed an alley-oop from three-point territory to Festus Ezeli, who slammed it down for an 81-78 lead.
After a jumper by Joe Johnson, Ezeli found a cutting Curry, who converted a reverse layup plus the foul for a three-point play to open an 84-80 lead.
Jarrett Jack then missed a runner and Draymond Green grabbed the rebound and found Curry, who pump-faked to elude Larkin and then hit a three-pointer to send the Warriors into the fourth with an 87-80 lead that would grow to 20.
“We’ve got to calm the flame down,” Thaddeus Young said of Curry’s third-quarter flurry. “Once he starts to get going, starts to get in his rhythm, it’s hard to stop him. It’s hard to stop their whole team. They’re a good team. They wouldn’t be 22-0 if they weren’t a good team.”
The Nets went small to start the second quarter, with Jack and Larkin in the backcourt, and produced what was their best offensive quarter of the season with 38 points on 77.8 percent shooting.
Trailing 57-42 with 1:49 left in the second, the Nets closed the half on a 12-0 run, capped by a corner three by Johnson with two seconds left to send the Nets into the break trailing 57-54.
Young finished with 25 points and a season-high 14 rebounds. Lopez had 18 and Larkin added 13 points and six assists. Green finished with 22 points and Klay Thompson had 21 for the Warriors, who hit 14 of 33 three-point attempts.
“Right now, we’re in the moment and right now obviously there’s more to play for and more to look forward to down the stretch for the season,” Curry said. “There’s no trophies for undefeated records until .”