BROOKLYN, N.Y. – With Kyrie Irving tightly on him, Luka Dončić tried to alter route, solely to seek out Ben Simmons heading his manner.

The 6-foot-10 level guard came visiting as the assistance defender, poked the ball free and hit the open court docket. As two defenders closed in on him, he circled to discover a streaking Kevin Durant. Simmons handed to Durant and watched him end a monstrous dunk, tying the sport with 14 seconds left within the fourth quarter.

It was Simmons’ first actual spotlight as a Net. Here the 26-year-old was checking off two of the containers he was introduced in for, playmaking and protection, to assist the Nets within the clutch.

But it wasn’t sufficient, as Dončić’s 41-point triple-double carried the Mavericks over the Nets 129-125 in extra time to drop Brooklyn to 1-4. Kyrie Irving had 39 factors and Durant had 37. Indiana, who is probably going lottery-bound at season’s finish, involves Brooklyn for a two-game miniseries beginning on Saturday.

With the Nets losers of three straight video games, right here’s 5 ideas on the loss.

Rotating door for third scorer

After Irving and Durant’s performances, the Nets’ third-leading scorer was tied between Royce O’Neale and David Duke Jr., who every completed with 10 factors on the evening. The workforce was with out each Joe Harris and Seth Curry, the previous of whom was resting as a precaution after present process two ankle surgical procedures previously 12 months. Curry spent the day with the Long Island Nets and had a powerful observe. He might make his season debut on Saturday. Nash stated Markieff Morris can even rejoin the workforce then. He’s been out due to private causes.

The lack of depth has left Durant and Irving struggling to discover a third dependable scorer as Simmons continues to seek for his footing. Simmons completed with simply seven factors, eight rebounds and 4 assists within the loss and missed just a few straightforward layups, however continued to point out aggression by driving towards the rim.

The loss additionally confirmed how essential T.J. Warren might be, ought to he return and look near the 20 points-per-game scorer he had been previously. Through 5 video games, the Nets have had 4 totally different gamers be their third main scorer with Patty Mills, Nic Claxton, O’Neale and Duke all filling that spot. None of them eclipsed the 20-point mark. While paying respect to Dončić in his postgame press convention, Durant identified how the Mavericks had six gamers attain double figures of their win. They had been two baskets away from having Durant and Irving be their solely double-digit scorers.

“Everybody was involved,” Durant stated of Dallas. “They made shots.”

If Brooklyn desires to have a deep postseason run, it is going to be laborious to take action if Durant and Irving have to take care of the scoring burden they’ve taken on early within the season. It’s a little bit just like the workloads Durant and James Harden had early final season earlier than the drama began in Brooklyn. The distinction is the Nets had been profitable these video games, workloads be damned.

The drawback might change as quickly as Saturday. With Harris, Curry and Morris all again within the fold, the Nets are constructed to win extra by committee as a substitute of using their stars into the bottom. But with each shooters coming off lengthy layoffs, it might be some time earlier than that involves fruition. If it doesn’t, who is aware of the place the season goes.

What If…? Dinwiddie version

Of all of the “What if …?” the Nets have had the previous few seasons, one state of affairs that doesn’t get a ton of consideration is that if Spencer Dinwiddie, now with the Mavericks, by no means tore his ACL three video games into the 2020-21 season. The harm occurred in Charlotte and began the Nets’ wild run of harm attrition that has solely appeared to decelerate with this season. The Nets haven’t had any gamers injured 5 video games into the season and the one gamers getting back from accidents had occurred earlier than the season.

Back to Dinwiddie. The Harden commerce rumors had been swirling earlier than he went down and had he been wholesome, he might need been concerned within the unique commerce for Harden. Had he stayed in Brooklyn, he would have acquired vital run as the first level guard due to the revolving door Harden and Irving had that very same season, presumably setting him up for a richer contract than the three-year, $54 million deal he acquired from the Wizards the next summer time. Always a media favourite as a Net, Dinwiddie was requested pregame if he ever considered how his profession would look now had his time in Brooklyn by no means finish on an ACL tear.

“I don’t know if the trade still happens or not or if I’m in it,” Dinwiddie stated. “Regardless of whether it happens or not I believe the Nets are a championship team. Just because if you look how close that team was, we were steamrolling people before I got hurt. Even if they make the trade and I’m in it that means they probably get to keep one of Caris (LeVert) or Jarrett (Allen), which obviously really would have been needed. Or I’m not in it, it means I’m still here and I’m with Harden. So either way you slice it all three of those scenarios the team probably wins the championship.”

The Nets desperately want a participant like Allen now, who has emerged as an All-Star heart in Cleveland, although Steve Nash stated some time in the past he wasn’t certain the workforce would have been in a position to supply him the five-year, $100 million contract he acquired from the Cavs. Coincidentally, Allen and LeVert at the moment are teammates in Cleveland. Another state of affairs is had the Nets stored Dinwiddie, he might have been a precious commerce piece on the deadline as a rental to doable fill one other want the Nets had. Alas, it’s simply one other state of affairs of the best hypothetical workforce ever.

The Claxton/Simmons state of affairs

Back to actuality. A query heading into the season was if each Simmons and Nic Claxton would have the ability to play alongside one another as two non-shooting gamers, who can create spacing points offensively. Simmons acquired his first run as a small-ball 5 on Wednesday in Milwaukee and noticed extra of it on Thursday.

Brooklyn’s beginning 5 got here into Thursday’s sport with the worst plus/minus within the league. While it’s a troublesome stat to quantify, it does trace at a few of the personnel points fit-wise with the roster. Claxton was the lone starter to not play over half-hour on Thursday and Nash performed small a lot of the sport, leaving Day’Ron Sharpe on the bench. Nash tends to tinker together with his lineups and experiment early within the season and he admitted the Simmons/Claxton staggering was a tentacle of that.

“I just think we’re trying to look at different things, free those guys up to be more definitive and decisive in their roles,” Nash stated. “When they’re out there together there’s a lot of moving parts to catch on the fly. I thought it gave Ben an opportunity maybe to be more aggressive in batches. It’s a challenge with guys out of the lineup to get there. That’s probably been the reservation so far this year is guys in and out of the lineup how can we get across the line without overplaying everyone.

“In the end tonight, you go to overtime and end up overplaying everyone anyway. But yeah that was trying to get a look. We’ve got to develop both. Ben at the five is going to be part of our team going forward.”

Rebounding has been a difficulty for the Nets, as has dealing with a few of the league’s greater facilities (see Steven Adams in Monday’s loss in Memphis). It’s solely 5 video games and each Marks and Nash have expressed confidence of their present personnel, but when the present questions solidify, it is going to make for some powerful rotation choices going ahead.

Kyrie’s block occasion

It’s early within the 12 months, however to Irving’s credit score, he’s backed up loads of what he stated within the preseason after searching for a sign-and-trade this summer time from the Nets. He referred to as the summer time a cluster–, predicted issues would look ugly in Brooklyn earlier than they acquired rosy. Lately, he’s additionally proven components of his sport that he merely hadn’t flashed a lot of earlier than.

Irving had 4 blocks towards the Mavericks on Thursday to tie a career-high that was first set practically a decade in the past with Cleveland in Dec. 2013. Against Milwaukee, he had 9 rebounds within the first half. Irving stated at media day he knew his choices had been restricted within the offseason and needed to alter the narrative round him. Nash has constantly stated all through his time in Brooklyn that Irving might be an influence participant defensively if he desired.

“I thought Kai all year has been fighting and has really worked and tried to defend,” Nash stated. “In the first half yesterday in Milwaukee he had nine defensive rebounds, things we’ve really been pushing for to rebound collectively. When he does other things like that you really are grateful for the performance. It isn’t always about scoring. It’s about finding other ways to help your team and he’s doing that in different ways.”

When requested about his newfound function as a rim protector, Irving laughed on the classification and reiterated what Nash stated about eager to make an influence defensively. He was fast to level out that the blocks may fluctuate, particularly as a result of the 6-foot-2 level guard just isn’t anchoring the protection down low the way in which Rudy Gobert would. It’s a protracted season and Irving has a protracted option to go, however he’s performed like somebody searching for a max contract.

“I don’t think I’m catching any blocks above the rim but just really paying attention to the details when studying my opponents and really maximizing on the intangibles I was blessed with from God,” Irving stated. “Being in a position to have sturdy fingers, have the ability to see the place the ball goes to finish up and simply get my fingers on it. But this 12 months I simply positively need to play an entire 12 months totally on each ends of the ground. So I’ll problem myself and find yourself with 4 blocks. But different instances different video games they might be fouls so who is aware of which manner it might go. Just need to keep aggressive. “

Non-shooter heavy lineup has success

With Curry and Harris returning to the lineup, Nash might be hoping his days of scheming video games with heavy non-shooter lineups are over. But all through Thursday’s sport, he discovered success with a few of the ones he did throw on the market. In the third quarter, Nash had Duke, Claxton, Edmond Sumner and Simmons throughout Durant, which labored to nice impact because the unit was in a position to generate stops and baskets. The unit shot 40 p.c from the sector and performed inside itself.

Durant stated he is aware of the lineups are designed to have defenses sag off their man and throw every thing at him, however he credited the gamers for filling within the gaps. Duke had 5 rebounds and put strain on the rim whereas Sumner repeatedly attacked the basket and acquired to the free throw line.

“I just thought the energy, the pace, they were able to scramble defensively, get out and run and put pressure on them in transition,” Nash stated. “A couple of those guys came in and played some good basketball with heart and desire and gave us the juice that you want off the bench.”

(Photo of Ben Simmons, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving: Sarah Stier / Getty Images)

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