On Friday night in New Orleans, the Brooklyn Nets got just about everything they wanted except a win, and dealing with the way that slipped away might have been the hardest part. The unbeaten Pelicans scored the final nine points of the game, with Jrue Holiday knocking down the go-ahead jumper after a Brooklyn turnover.
"It's a shame," said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson. "Because we played a heck of a game. Didn't close it out. Had our opportunities. But we'll learn from this. Lot of young mistakes out there. We've just got to learn from it."
They are getting right back at it with Sunday's game against the defending champion Golden State Warriors at Barclays Center on Sunday evening, the start of a busy week that includes a visit to the Knicks on Monday followed by home games against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday, the Houston Rockets on Friday and the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday.
"We play Sunday," said D'Angelo Russell. "That's the best thing about it. We lost this one. It's early. We play Sunday. Get over it."
The Nets went to New Orleans hoping to build on a strong defensive performance against Cleveland two nights earlier. Against the NBA's highest-scoring team and offensive efficiency leader, there were positive signs.
The Nets became the first team to slow down Anthony Davis a little bit, limiting him to 18 points on 6-of-19 shooting in 38 minutes. Davis came in averaging 30.3 points with Nikola Mirotic averaging 28.0, and between them they had 28 on the Nets.
But Brooklyn got burned by Holiday, whose game-winner gave him a game-high 26 points, and burly big man Julius Randle came off the bench for the Pelicans to give the Nets a tough time in the second half.
"Defensively I thought Jarrett (Allen) did a heck of a job all game with Anthony Davis," said Caris LeVert. "We know what type of player he is. We knew we had to help him all night, and I feel like we did all the right things possible. Just mental mistakes beat us tonight."
The Nets went with a four-guard lineup for a spell in the second quarter against the Pelicans, something that seemed inevitable due to the team's injury-depleted depth at the four spot and the return from injury of guard Shabazz Napier lengthening Atkinson's guard options.
Napier made his Nets debut with a solid effort Wednesday in Cleveland, and shared the floor with Spencer Dinwiddie, Allen Crabbe, Joe Harris and big man Ed Davis.
"Like it," said Atkinson. "Obviously Shabazz, sparkplug. I don't even know who the four is on that, with that small lineup, but I thought it really helped us. Can't do it against every lineup, but it's something we can look at more and more.''
Napier finished with 16 points while making three 3-pointers, including a big one in the tight fourth quarter that put the Nets up 98-95.
The Nets continue to raise their deep shooting game heading into Sunday night's matchup with the Warriors. They took a season-high 40 3-pointers against the Pelicans, and for the fourth straight game shot over 40 percent. This time it was a season-high 47.5 percent (19-40).
That elevated the Nets to seventh in the NBA in 3-point shooting at 39.3 percent.
Russell shot 6-of-9 from deep against the Pelicans while scoring a team-high 24 points. That followed up an 18-point, eight-assist outing in Cleveland. Russell is shooting 44.8 percent from 3-point range on the season, one of three Nets with at least 20 attempts so far who are above 40 percent, along with Jared Dudley (45.0) and Joe Harris (58.3).
ABOUT THE WARRIORS
Trailing going into the fourth quarter on Friday night, the Warriors took over and rolled to a 128-100 win against the Knicks to improve to 5-1. Kevin Durant scored 41 points, two nights after Stephen Curry went for 51.
Durant shot 17-for-24 and 5-for-9 from 3-point range while Curry had 29 points shooting 10-of-18 and 6-of-11 from 3-point range. As a team the Warriors shot 51-for-87 and 16-for-33.
In Curry and Durant, the two-time defending champs feature the league's most formidable scoring duo. Curry is second in the NBA with 33.7 points per game while shooting 52.7 percent from 3-point range, while Durant is sixth with 29.7 points per game.
The Warriors are fourth in the league with 120.8 points per game, third in offensive rating (116.4), seventh in defensive rating (103.5) and second in net rating (12.9).