Shorthanded Nets lose by 21 at home to Thunder

By Greg Logan

It was James Harden and a shorthanded supporting cast against the world Thursday night at Barclays Center, and that simply wasn’t good enough as the Nets suffered a 130-109 loss to the Thunder. The loss dropped the Nets’ home record to 11-11 and left them at 26-15 at the halfway mark of the season.

The Nets trailed by 22 early in the third quarter but managed an 18-6 run that included eight points from David Duke Jr. to cut their deficit to 10 points. But that ballooned to a 100-83 margin by the end of the period. Back-to-back three-pointers by Harden triggered a 13-4 Nets run to cut the deficit to 104-96 on a layup by Cam Thomas with 8:27 to go.

But the Thunder responded with a fusillade of five three-pointers in a clinching 19-6 run to restore a 21-point lead and cruise to the win.

Harden topped the Nets with 26 points and nine assists but only shot 7-for-22. Cam Thomas added 19 points. The firepower was on the side of the Thunder (14-27), who got 33 points from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander along with 10 rebounds and nine assists and 27 from Luguentz Dort. The Thunder shot 44.4% from three-point range (20-for-45) while holding the Nets to 21.9% (7-for-32) from three.

Because it came at the end of a stretch of four games in five nights and travel that spanned coast-to-coast, the start time against the Thunder was pushed back from the usual 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 pm. The Nets were coming off a season-best performance in their 138-112 victory Wednesday night in Chicago, but their flight home didn’t arrive until 4:30 a.m. Thursday and they didn’t get to their own beds until about an hour later.

Asked before the game how he thought the Nets might be feeling after such a daunting schedule, coach Steve Nash smiled and said, "I don’t know. I know how I feel. I’m exhausted. These guys are a resilient group. They found a way to give maybe the best performance of the year after a tough back-to-back and a lot of travel.

"There’s no reason we should go into this game think about how many ways or why we should lose. We should think about how many solutions we have and how we can win this game."

The Nets rested Kevin Durant and Patty Mills and, of course, they did not have Kyrie Irving, who is ineligible for home games because he is unvaccinated. LaMarcus Aldridge and Nic Claxton sat out with injuries. Harden was the only member of the "Big 3" left in the starting lineup.

Asked if he needed to call upon Harden for extra production, Nash said, "I don’t ever really say those types of things. But I will want James to be aggressive, to make plays, to put pressure on the defense. And I think James is probably thinking the same thing. He’ll relish the opportunity to try to pick up his teammates and prove they can win the game regardless of who’s in the lineup and who’s not."

Harden got off to a quick start, scoring seven of the Nets’ first 11 points, but it was Gilgeous-Alexander who staged the one-man show in the opening quarter. He scored every point in a 16-4 Thunder run for an early 25-15 lead that grew into a 38-26 lead by the end of the opening quarter.

Things got no better for the Nets in the second quarter. They cut their deficit to seven points only to see the Thunder go on an extended 24-10 run, including five three-pointers and a conventional three-point play, to build a 21-point lead before settling for a 70-51 halftime advantage.

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