Saturday’s Nets-Lakers game was supposed to be a preview of the NBA Finals. Turns out it was more like a heavyweight fight, where the Nets got floored early and never fought back. There were
Saturday’s Nets-Lakers game was supposed to be a preview of the NBA Finals. Turns out it was more like a heavyweight fight, where the Nets got floored early and never fought back.
There were already three stars missing, and a fourth sidelined himself when Kyrie Irving got ejected. And by the time it was over, the Nets got roughed up 126-101 by the defending champs before 1,773 fans at Barclays Center.
“They hit us in the mouth early, and we were fighting uphill the whole game,” said Kevin Durant, who had 22 points but also eight turnovers. “They’re playing free and they came out and hit us in the mouth. … They’re the champs. You’ve got to respect it.”
If the Nets (36-17) didn’t respect it before, they had to afterward. They played without James Harden (hamstring), and saw Irving (18 points) ejected in the third quarter. They got outscored 22-9 and imploded from there.
But the Lakers were missing LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma and Marc Gasol as well. Then Dennis Schroder got ejected along with Irving.
It didn’t matter; Lakers buyout signee Andre Drummond was enough. He had 20 points, 11 rebounds and bullied the Nets and LaMarcus Aldridge all night.
“Just got to do a better job of trying to set the tone better. It starts with me. I started out kind of passive and that was kind of contagious for everyone else,” Aldridge said. “No excuses. I definitely need to be better, and I will be better. Definitely got to hit first and be more aggressive. I was just way too passive.”
The Nets allowed 50.5 percent shooting — 19-of-34 from deep — and saw the Lakers produce eight in double figures, including Schroder’s 19.
The Nets were largely outplayed from the start, falling behind 11-2 after a Schroder 3-pointer with 9:33 left in the first quarter.
Drummond isolated on Aldridge, bullying his way inside to pad the Lakers lead to 18-7. The Nets let the Lakers hit seven of their first eight.
At one point, Drummond battled with five Nets for a rebound, and he won. Aldridge couldn’t handle him. Head coach Steve Nash kept spindly Nic Claxton away from him as much as possible and opted not to use big DeAndre Jordan at all.
“I thought that they were the aggressor. They were more physical,” ash said. “They hit first. We didn’t match their physicality and competitive fire. This is what you get. This is a team missing a bunch of guys and guys get an opportunity and their eyes light up and they came out and played harder more than us, played more physical than us.
“We succumbed to their intensity and physicality. It’s a good lesson for us.”
With the Nets down 49-39, they mounted a 17-3 run to take the lead. A Kevin Durant putback knotted it at 52-all with four minutes left in the half.
Durant crossed over Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and dunked to put the Nets ahead, and Aldridge capped the run and gave the Nets a 56-52 lead.
They couldn’t hold it.
With the Nets trailing just 66-62 and 9:41 left in the third, Irving and Schroder started jawing with each other and both got ejected.
On his way off the floor, Irving tossed his jersey to fans as he headed back to the Nets locker room. He took any momentum the Nets had with him.
The Nets immediately gave up the 22-9 run and fell behind 88-71.
They got outscored 60-39 after the ejections, missing all 14 of their attempts from behind the arc while letting the Lakers hit 12-of-18.
“I don’t want to make excuses, but at the same time, it’s a perfect storm,” Nash said. “[It] wasn’t our night. I thought they were more physical than we were, and we also were playing a bunch of guys who hadn’t played much together at all. When you add it up, a bit of everything I’d say.”
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Brian Lewis