OAKLAND, Calif. — The Nets might have one of the worst records in the NBA, but no one can say they aren’t entertaining. Trailing by 21 points late in the opening period, they came all the way back to build a five-point halftime lead against the reigning NBA champions. But order in the universe prevailed when the Warriors asserted themselves down the stretch on their way to a 114-101 victory Tuesday night at Oracle Arena.
It was the 16th loss in 18 games for the Nets.
The Nets were going shot for shot with the Warriors for much of a wild third quarter and had a three-point lead when Steph Curry scored nine straight points late in the period to ignite what turned into an extended 22-5 run that also included seven fourth-quarter points from Draymond Green as the Warriors regained a 95-81 lead.
That was it for the Nets (20-45), who didn’t have the strength for another major comeback.
“We were great all game avoiding picks up high and then, bang, bang, he [Curry] comes off screens and hits two threes,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “You make a couple mistakes, and they make you pay with threes. Giving up 38 points in the third quarter was too much.”
D’Angelo Russell led the Nets with 22 points and eight assists, and they got 19 points from DeMarre Carroll (despite 2-for-10 three-point shooting), 13 from Spencer Dinwiddie and 10 from Caris LeVert.
All five starters were in double figures for the Warriors (50-14), topped by 34 from Curry, who shot 12-for-20, 19 from Kevin Durant, 18 from Klay Thompson and 16 points and nine assists from Green.
The matchup against the defending champs wasn’t exactly ideal for the Nets, who arrived in the midst of a 2-15 tailspin. But Atkinson emphasized signs of progress from a roster that gradually has regained its health recently and lost three close games to start their current five-game road trip.
“I look at the glass half full,” Atkinson said before the game. “We’re there against good teams. Cleveland we’re right there, Sacramento we’re right there, Clippers — another good team — we’re right there with them. We’re giving ourselves a chance. Now we’ve got to break through.
“Sure, they’re frustrated, but I’d be more frustrated if we were getting blown out by 20. That’s the real frustrating ones. I want to see us play well tonight; I want to see us progress and make that one more play when it counts.”
Despite making only one of their first 10 three-point attempts, the Nets took an early 14-10 lead. But almost before they could blink, the Nets got steamrolled by a 25-0 Warriors run that included 11 points from Curry and seven from Durant to build a 21-point lead late in the first quarter. The Nets missed all eight of their shots and committed five turnovers in the span and went 5:07 between scores.
At that point, it almost seemed as though the Nets might as well pack their bags for the last cross-country leg of the road trip to Charlotte. But as quickly as things went downhill, the Nets climbed back into the game, starting with a 19-2 run that included nine points from LeVert as they cut their deficit to 37-33.
But it got better from there. They took their first lead at 44-42 on a three-pointer by Russell midway in the second period. When they reached halftime, the Nets found themselves with a shocking 53-48 lead, having wiped out their 21-point deficit with an extended run of 39-13.
If the Nets were giddy with anticipation of an upset, the feeling evaporated quickly in the third quarter as the Warriors came out attacking. There were 13 lead changes and three ties in the entertaining back-and-forth action before the Warriors closed the period on a 13-4 run, including nine points from Curry to push them to an 86-80 lead.