LOS ANGELES — If ever an opponent were easy pickings for the Nets, it was the even lowlier Kings. But somehow, the Nets blew a six-point fourth quarter lead with critical late turnovers, bad decisions and poor interior defense in a disheartening 116-111 overtime loss on Thursday night that called into question how much progress they’ve made this season.
The numbers told a sad yet familiar story. The Nets committed 22 turnovers leading to 29 Kings points, including 10 turnovers for 14 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. They also were outscored in the paint by a devastating 66-38 margin.
“I felt it was our turnovers, just making the simple play, the simple pass,” said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, who has harped on correcting this recurring problem. “On the road, you have to value the ball. We let too many slip away.”
One of the culprits was guard D’Angelo Russell, who scored 15 points and had 11 assists but also had five turnovers and was responsible for a team turnover in OT because of a shot-clock violation. Atkinson praised Russell before the game for recently reducing his turnovers, but against the Kings, the ball stuck in Russell’s hands in the fourth quarter and OT when he failed to initiate the offense until late in the shot clock.
“I do think it sticks,” Atkinson said. “I do think we do a little too much one-on-one. You hope when they switch a big guy onto your guard, you can blow by them and cause some havoc.
“We didn’t want to go deep in the shot clock. It just stagnates your offense. It would be great if we could attack earlier when we’re down. We’ll look at it and try to do better finishing games like that.”
Russell’s play generally has picked up since he returned to the starting lineup four games ago, but to his credit, he acknowledged his ballhandling mistakes against the Kings.
“We didn’t give ourselves a chance down the stretch,” Russell said. “Myself, I turned the ball over. It kind of really hurt us. We were going tit for tat, bucket for bucket. We’d win this game if I didn’t turn the ball over.”
At the other guard spot, Spencer Dinwiddie struggled to contain penetration by Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox, and that made it tough for Nets rookie center Jarrett Allen, who had 15 points and 13 rebounds but committed six turnovers, to guard the pick-and-roll.
Asked about the difficulty of helping against Fox, Allen said, “It’s tough when they have (center) Willie Cauley-Stein coming down the other side. You have to decide which one you want.”
Losing to the Kings felt like a step back for the Nets, who must regroup before facing the Clippers Sunday at Staples Center.