The Nets aren’t the identical workforce with out Kevin Durant on the ground, and because of this, they need to rediscover themselves.
Which is a scary thought with final season’s 11-game dropping streak in Durant-less video games looming within the backdrop.
It’s now two in a row — some anticipated a loss to the league-best Boston Celtics, however Sunday night’s embarrassing, 112-102 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder delivered a intestine punch felt all through a company that crumbled after Durant’s midseason MCL sprain final season.
As followers exited Barclays Center whereas the Thunder dribbled out the clock after turning a 10-point deficit right into a 10-point victory, a sense all too acquainted unfold throughout the world.
Oh no. Not once more.
All week, Nets gamers and coaches agreed with the thought they’re in higher place now to maintain Durant’s harm than they had been a yr in the past. Jacque Vaughn is the top coach, not Steve Nash. Kyrie Irving is full-time, not certain by New York City’s pre-existing COVID-19 vaccine mandate. A as soon as naked bones roster is now loaded, even with Durant and Simmons out on Sunday.
Case in level: TJ Warren helped carry the offense with a 20-point efficiency in opposition to the Celtics, and Seth Curry scored a team-high 23 off the bench on Sunday.
Neither had been on the roster throughout final season’s dropping streak, nor had been Royce O’Neale and Yuta Watanabe, two key low season additions enjoying important roles on the workforce.
Yet with Durant out — and to a lesser extent, with Simmons out whereas assuming a bigger playmaking accountability — the problems had been anticipated. Irving’s particular person scoring greatness is meant to hold the Nets much more whereas No. 7 rehabs a second MCL sprain.
That didn’t occur on Sunday. Irving tallied simply 15 factors on 20 shot makes an attempt. He solely scored two factors within the fourth quarter and wasn’t aggressive sufficient with solely 4 subject purpose makes an attempt regardless of the Thunder rolling again into the sport late.
“These are warmup games. The big performances come in late April,” Irving mentioned postgame. “Just need to take pleasure in it and smile at the way you lose and have the ability to decide your self again up. I’m doing one of the best job I can.
“I wish I could make a few more shots within the minutes and be efficient. I know that will come and I’ll continue to prepare the best way I know how and be a better example for the guys in the locker room.”
Irving’s off night time was a byproduct of Durant’s absence. With a 30-point scorer on all-time capturing effectivity off the ground, it makes it simpler for defenses to key in on simply the star guard.
“That’s the way we’ve been playing all year. We’ve just been kind of iso-ball, relying a lot on Kevin and Kyrie just to create one-on-one offense, sometimes scoring on two or three defenders,” Curry mentioned postgame: “So we gotta determine different methods we’re gonna play with Kevin not on the market creating photographs for himself and different folks.
“We’re just a different team now, so we got to figure it out.”
It doesn’t assist that Joe Harris missed three open threes between the 4:11 and three:16 mark of the fourth quarter. Just a kind of falling might have swung momentum again in Brooklyn’s favor.
“I think that’s the challenge for us as a group to be able to sustain. That is harder, mentally and physically because Kevin does save you at times and give you a bucket and so now your defense is set,” Vaughn mentioned. “That’s the challenge for this group is they have to dig in and have a mental fortitude greater than before. Because every possession does matter and that’s what we talked about yesterday. So that 50-50 ball, that loose ball, that foul for free throws, they do matter. First quarter, third quarter and obviously we’re seeing in the fourth quarter.”
With Durant out, nevertheless, there’s no query that Irving should step up and ship. And with the schedule stiffening on the highway after the upcoming Spurs sport in San Antonio, the margin for error is even narrower.
“Some guys have been in this position. Some guys have not. It was all glory glory last week when we were winning games every game. And now we’re answering questions about potentially struggling,” Irving mentioned. “I don’t’ suppose we’re going to wrestle with out Kevin now. That’s not my perception. I do know know guys within the locker room don’t imagine that. This isn’t final yr in any respect.
“So the comparisons have got to stop. I’ll leave it up to (media) to do that. For us we don’t have any comparison to last year, we just want to control our focus level and how we prepare.”