Nets drop 3rd straight game, fall to 4th in East

Cam Thomas, Keldon Johnson, Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets lost Kyrie Irving to calf soreness before the game. Then 48 minutes of basketball later, the Nets lost for the third straight time since Kevin Durant was diagnosed with an MCL sprain.

Ben Simmon‘s first triple-double in Nets uniform was not enough as Keldon Johnson torched them with 36 points in a 106-98 win Tuesday night that snapped the San Antonio Spurs’ five-game losing skid.

Johnson scored nine in the final four minutes, including the three-pointer with 57.3 seconds left, breaking the Nets’ spirited comeback.

Without Durant and Irving, the best shooting team in the league suddenly turned cold. The Nets shot a measly 3 for 23 from the three-point zone.

Simmons, who returned from a one-game absence, scattered 10 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists but only hit 4 of 10 field goal attempts.

The starting trio of Joe Harris, Royce O’Neale and Seth Curry were a combined 2 for 14 from deep. But despite their shooting woes, they were in striking distance until Johnson hit the dagger 3 that extended the Spurs’ lead to eight.

T.J. Warren paced the Nets with 19 points off the bench. Cam Thomas continued to play well without Irving, scoring 15 points on a 50 percent shooting night. Edmond Sumner added 13.

But the stinker from their starters was too much to overcome.

Only Nic Claxton shot well among all starters, collecting 15 points on 7 of 11 shooting, 11 rebounds and four blocks.

“Overall, we got some good looks. I think early on we got some good looks… but you can’t rely on that on a nightly basis. You know, you’re going to make and miss shots. We all know it’s a part of our game. I’m more determined to get us to play hard and be ready to play at the beginning of the game. So that piece of it [was] disappointing.”

Jacque Vaughn postgame via Yes Network

The Nets trailed by a dozen after only scoring 15 points in the opening quarter. It set the tone for the night as they played catchup for most of the game.

After a big second-quarter comeback to tie the game, 51-51, at the half, the Nets again fell to a scoring slump in the third quarter, making only 6 of 23 shots.

The loss dropped the Nets (27-16) to the fourth seed in the East behind the Philadelphia 76ers (28-16) as the Milwaukee Bucks (29-16) rose to solo second after winning over Toronto Raptors earlier in the night.

The Nets are now entering the danger zone as they resume their five-game road trip with treacherous back-to-back games in Phoenix and Utah on Thursday and Friday.

If the losing spell continues, they could quickly find themselves out of the top six, the same thing that happened last season when Durant was out, which led to the superstar’s trade demand in the offseason.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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