Amid the Nets’ struggles of adjusting to new head coach Jacque Vaughn, a former assistant under the fired Steve Nash, the ongoing suspension of guard Kyrie Irving by the franchise’s CEO Joe Tsai, and the reacclimation of forward Ben Simmons to game play after missing all of last season, the Nets, a team many pundits picked to make it to the NBA Finals this season, were a dysfunctional program that was 6-9 and 12th in the Eastern Conference after being annihilated by the Sacramento Kings 153-121 on Tuesday night.
“They made shots,” said Durant of the beatdown by the Kings. Durant scored a team-high 27 points, all in vain. “That’s demoralizing when you see teams making shots. It’s not like we didn’t try. They were better than us.”
It was the Nets’ sixth game out of their last seven played on the road, and the third game of a four-game West Coast road trip that ends tonight in Portland versus the Trailblazers. It began with a 110-95 win over the Los Angeles Clippers last Saturday. The Nets then were beaten by the Los Angeles Lakers 116-103 on Sunday. The Lakers played without LeBron James, who is recovering from thigh and abductor injuries. Lakers forward Anthony Davis picked up the slack with a season-high 37 points.
With guard Seth Curry and Joe Harris back in the lineup from injuries, Kevin Durant continues to carry the offense. He had led the Nets in scoring in nine straight games. The last player to lead the Nets in scoring was Irving with 35 on Oct. 29 in a 125-116 loss to the Indiana Pacers at the Barclays Center. Durant is eighth overall in the NBA in scoring at 30.3 points per game. He is also posting 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.
When he was suspended on Nov. 3, Irving was averaging 26.9 points, 5.1 assists and 5.1 rebounds in eight games played. No other Net is averaging at least 12 points per game. Center Nic Claxton is at 11.5. Irving’s numbers and presence, as he often is the target of double teams and forces defenses to rotate out of position, have been a huge void that Vaughn and his staff have not been able to fill.
The Nets return home on Sunday to host the Memphis Grizzlies, then are back on the road for three games to face the Philadelphia 76ers (Tuesday), Toronto Raptors (Wednesday) and Indiana Pacers (Friday).