The Spurs had the best player on the floor.
With Kevin Durant (MCL sprain) out and Kyrie Irving (right calf soreness) scratched hours ahead of tipoff, San Antonio’s star forward Keldon Johnson erupted for a career-high scoring night to hand the Nets a 106-98 loss last Tuesday night.
The Nets have now lost three straight games in the aftermath of the right knee injury projected to sideline Durant another three weeks. Ben Simmons did not play in the loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Irving missed Tuesday’s game, though he’s hopeful to play Thursday against the Phoenix Suns.
As a result, the Nets failed to generate offense. Simmons finished with a triple double (10 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds) but turned the ball over seven times. He was aggressive in his attempts to get to the rim but made only four of his 10 attempts from the field.
The Nets turned the ball over 21 times to only 25 assists. The team recorded only one assist in the entire first quarter and entered the second down, 27-15.
The Nets then found something from their bench. Reserve forward T.J. Warren scored a team-high 19 points. Seth Curry, who got the start in place of Irving, scored 16 points, but shot 6-of-16 from the field and 1-of-7 from downtown.
Starting center Nic Claxton recorded his ninth consecutive game with three blocks and established himself as a dominant force in the paint. Claxton tallied 15 points and 11 rebounds to go with four rejections.
Their undoing came behind the arc: the Nets shot 3-of-23 from downtown.
It was the Spurs’ Johnson who took the game over.
After scoring eight points in the first half, Johnson scored 28 in the second to set a new career-high of 36 points. Jacque Vaughn made versatile forward Royce O’Neale the primary defender on Johnson, but maybe he should have gone with Simmons — who guarded the center at times as the small ball five.
The Nets have a chance to get a win on Thursday against a depleted Phoenix Suns team missing several of their key players. Irving is also expected to return, though wins project to be difficult for a Nets team without its star forward until closer to February.