On a night when the Brooklyn Nets could legitimately take positives away from a loss, Kris Humphries reminded everyone why this year is different. These are not the New Jersey Nets and competing is not enough. In 2012-13, results matter.
The Nets furiously clawed back against the Oklahoma City Thunder, turning what looked like a laugher into one of the their most competitive and entertaining games of the season. Unlike most home games at the Barclays Center, however, this contest ended in a loss.
Kevin Durant proved too much to handle and the Thunder held off the Nets, 117-111, Tuesday night. The perennial MVP candidate scored 32 points, including six straight in a pivotal 2:05 stretch late in the fourth quarter.
The Nets played without Brook Lopez (foot) and Reggie Evans (flu) and trailed by as many as 16 points in the game. But despite all the obstacles the Nets had to overcome to pull within 104-102 with 4:11 left in the fourth quarter, they earned another tally in the loss column.
“A loss is a loss to us,” Humphries said. “We’re not the Nets of the past few years. No moral victories, we’re trying to win games... We can’t go on losing streaks, that’s not what this year is about.”
The Nets active on the floor also played a significant role in the loss too. Roles that could not be explained away with injured teammates and tired legs.
For starters, the Thunder shot 60.6 percent and scored 117 points. It had its way with the Brooklyn defense, consistently knocking down midrange jumpers and painting a clear path to the free-throw line.
No Nets’ opponent had eclipsed 53.3 percent from the field prior to their tilt with the Thunder.
“It was the second quarter I would say for us,” center Andray Blatche said. “We had a bad quarter and they maximized on it.”
The second quarter reminded Avery Johnson too much of New Jersey.
“I challenged them a little bit at halftime,” Johnson said. “I was disappointed with our effort in the first half. We were playing like we were giving them too much respect and I didn’t see the Brooklyn Nets.”
The Thunder, who lead the NBA in both ppg and free-throw percentage, also shot 30-of-34 from the line. The Nets could not stay with the Thunder’s uptempo pace and OKC made them pay from the line.
Gerald Wallace, who finished with 14 points and seven rebounds, rationalized the Nets’ reactive behavior.
“We have to go small and we have to play at their pace because we’re missing one of our key guys,” Wallace said. “If we had Brook we would have been able to slow the game down and pound them inside... but we don’t have Brook so we have to play in a more uptempo, open-court type of basketball.”
The Nets have the pieces to adapt, though. These are not Newark’s Nets.
The Nets struggled last season without Lopez, but the rosters are entirely different. The Nets only retained five holdovers from the 2011-12 roster. Billy King added Joe Johnson and brought back Gerald Wallace for his first full season with the organization.
The bench features players who played significant starting roles on various teams last season. When Lopez goes down, the Nets have the luxury of turning to Blatche for 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Regardless of who was in the lineup, Deron Williams (game-high 33 points) summed up the Nets’ night succinctly.
“Like I said, 60 percent from the field, that’s hard to overcome,” Williams said.