The Brooklyn Nets missed their shot at a .500 March with a 106-101 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night at Barclays Center. Perhaps tougher than the result itself was how the Nets, who dropped to 7-9 in March, arrived there.
“Whatever it is, we did not have it,” Coach Kenny Atkinson said. “We did not have the juice from the beginning, it was an uphill battle all game.”
Despite shooting 40.4% and fighting the proverbial uphill battle, the Nets still gave themselves a chance to win on Tuesday. Twenty-four of Brook Lopez’s game-high 26 points had the Nets down one heading into the fourth quarter and an Isaiah Whitehead three-pointer had the Nets up 101-100 with 2:29 to play.
Whitehead’s three turned out to be the final points of the night for the Nets, who stumbled down the stretch.
Down 102-101, the Nets were hit by three successive calls that helped seal their fate. Jeremy Lin was called for a travelling violation after making contact with Robert Covington and on the ensuing Sixers’ possession was called for a foul while trying to block a T.J. McConnell drive. McConnell hit both free throws to make it a 104-101 game.
Lopez missed a game-tying three with 32.9 seconds to play, the last Nets look of the night. Richaun Holmes stuck the dagger from the foul line with seven seconds to play.
“I don’t think it’s on those last possessions,” Lopez said. “We didn’t handle the game the way we should have for the entirety of the game, so they were able to hang around.”
The Sixers led 58-57 at halftime, but the Nets appeared to turn the game around with a six-point lead late in the third quarter. Instead of being able to put the depleted Sixers – who only played seven players over 10 minutes – away, Philadelphia came back with a 7-0 run to end the quarter, taking a one-point lead into the fourth.
“We couldn’t push that six-point lead,” Atkinson said. “I thought we were playing well and we couldn’t push it over six. All night we couldn’t get over that hump of getting that impetus, that push we needed to get over it.”
Atkinson didn’t use the Nets grinding schedule of 16 games in 28 days as an excuse and neither did his players.
“I just felt like we relaxed a little bit after we won three of four,” Lin said. “It’s a valuable lesson for us to be able to learn that this league is tough on any given night.”
Dario Saric led the Sixers with 23 points, while Robert Covington contributed 21 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. T.J. McConnell had a game-high 10 assists.
On the Nets side, Lin and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson were second to Lopez with 11 points each. Lin had a team-high seven assists, a Nets season-high four steals while Lopez grabbed nine rebounds and dished six assists to go with his 26 points.
Sean Kilpatrick scored nine points in his return to the Nets lineup after missing seven games with a hamstring injury. Kilpatrick was raring to go in his first action back, scoring seven points in two minutes. He was limited to 11:30 for the game as Atkinson wanted to ease him back into action.
The Nets are back in action on Thursday night when they head to Detroit to take on the Pistons. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m.