Luka Doncic is running up court with his tongue out, both of his arms by his side and his hands pointed back.
It’s become somewhat of a trademark gesture for Las Vegas’ favorite for NBA Most Valuable Player of the Year honors after he makes a big play.
Only this time, this big play delivered the Nets their fourth loss in their opening five games. It was a behind the back pass to a wide-open Reggie Bullock at the top of the key for a three that gave the Cavs a nine-point overtime lead the Nets would never overcome in their eventual 129-125 loss at Barclays Center.
Doncic thoroughly had his way with every defender the Nets threw at him. He finished with a 40-point triple double and outlasted heroic efforts from Durant and Irving.
In front of a jam-packed, sellout Barclays Center crowd, he had the last laugh.
And the Nets have nothing to laugh about.
They have lost three games in a row and tout a 1-4 record that makes them, on paper, only better than teams that have yet to record a victory, even though their roster features two likely Hall of Famers, plus an active one in Steve Nash as the team’s head coach. The Nets believe they are a better team than their record would indicate — that they will peak at the end of the year after a season’s worth of building chemistry and tinkering with rotations.
But as of right now, the names on paper are not winning games.
Durant finished with 37 points on 12-of-20 shooting from the field but went cold after making nine of his first 12 shots. Irving also finished with 37 points, but he shot 14-of-31 from the field and 5-of-14 from beyond the arc. And Simmons finished with another single-digit scoring performance, though he made life difficult for Doncic on the other end of the floor.
Simmons had seven points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals. He stole the ball from Doncic in the final seconds of regulation before feeding Durant for a game-tying transition dunk.
But by the time Durant and Irving got it going in overtime, Doncic had already decided the game was his to win.
Five other Nets players scored in double figures, including former Net Spencer Dinwiddie, who started and scored 11 points.
And for the Nets, only second-year guard David Duke Jr. and starting wing Royce O’Neale registered double-figure scoring. Joe Harris sat out the second game of a back-to-back with his ankle maintenance, and Seth Curry did not play as he battles back from offseason ankle surgery as well.
The Nets have an opportunity to right the ship against an Indiana Pacers team expected to be tanking at the end of the season. Expectations, at this point in the season, might not matter with both teams boasting a 1-4 record.