There’s been a lot of overconfidence around the NBA in recent weeks, and Saturday night the Nets fell victim to it. A Brooklyn team starting Kevin Durant and James Harden looked over at a Clippers team lining up without Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Ivica Zubac, Luke Kennard, or Nicolas Batum — due to a combination of injuries and COVID protocols — and thought easy win.
Final score: Clippers 120, Nets 116.
Credit a fiesty Clippers team that is 3-3 in their last six despite all the injuries and reasons to hang their heads. Tyronn Lue has his players ready to go nightly.
But the Nets should have won this game and Durant knew it. After the game, he called out his team for the lack of focus. Via Nick Friedell of ESPN:
“We just relaxed too much,” Durant said. “We get up 10, miss a layup or turn the ball over, and they get a fast break, give up a 3, straight-line drive — like coach [Steve Nash] said, we didn’t deserve to win this game. We came in here with a f*****-up attitude. Thinking we were just going to walk into a W…
“It’s natural when a team is missing so many players,” Durant said when asked why the Nets’ attitude was the way it was. “They’re going through so much over there. [We] relaxed. You don’t think you could lose an NBA game like this. They’re missing how many guys? They’re playing guys that are up from the G League. Xavier Moon came in and hit some shots for them. Keon Johnson, James Ennis — they all made an impact I felt on the game, and I think we came in too chill to start.”
Brooklyn is not the only team looking past the squad in front of them and getting in trouble, there have been plenty of those upsets in recent weeks. Add in it’s January, the middle of a long grind of a season, and it’s easy for elite teams to get caught looking ahead.
The Nets, who have fallen to second in the East behind the surging Bulls, have positive signs. James Harden has been on a tear since coming back from health and safety protocols, with three 30-point triple-doubles in four games. Kyrie Irving is nearing a return for road games (we’ll see if him being part-time is a distraction, but he is an elite talent). Joe Harris will return at some point following ankle surgery. Patty Mills has been brilliant. This is still a title contender.
And Durant will not let them lose focus or mail in a chunk of the season. His calling out the team is a good sign.