This is what the Brooklyn Nets do.
They lose to bad teams.
They lose to hungrier teams that are missing their own star players.
It’s part of their identity. It’s what they do.
Steve Nash constantly calls them out for it. But it keeps happening anyway.
Normally, that would be an alarming trend. Yet the Nets always seem to rise to the occasion against elite opponents.
Taken by itself, Saturday night’s 126-101 blowout loss to the Los Angeles Lakers should be cause for concern. The Lakers were missing LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Kyle Kuzma, yet still won easily.
But again, this is what the Nets do.
If both teams were at full strength, and this was an actual measuring stick game, it would be much more concerning. The Nets simply need to get James Harden healthy.
With about a quarter of the regular season remaining, they are tied for the top spot in the Eastern Conference with the Philadelphia 76ers. The two teams will meet on Wednesday night in Philly.
Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant combined to play 45 minutes on Saturday night. Irving was ejected in the third quarter after jawing with Dennis Schroder. At the time, the Nets trailed 66-62. It got a lot worse from there.
In his second game back after missing 23 straight due to a hamstring injury, Durant had 22 points but also eight turnovers. The Lakers are an excellent defensive team, and it showed — even without their stars.
Andre Drummond (20 points, 11 rebounds) also won the buyout battle inside against LaMarcus Aldridge (12 points, three rebounds). And then there was the 3-point line disparity: LA 19-for-34, Brooklyn 5-for-27.
Maybe these two teams will ultimately meet in the NBA finals. If they do, hopefully they look a lot different than they did on Saturday night. The Nets could struggle to keep up with the Lakers from a physical standpoint, which might mean DeAndre Jordan (five straight DNP-CDs) getting some rare playing time. But they could also have three star scorers in their lineup as well — health permitting — which would be a daunting assignment for any defense.
“When you’ve got high IQ players, it’s not hard to figure s—t out,” Durant said in a Twitter conversation when asked about Brooklyn’s team chemistry.
The pressure will certainly be on Brooklyn, now the league’s top villains. The Nets may fall short of their championship or bust expectations. If they do, it won’t be because they got blown out by the decimated Lakers in a regular-season game in April.