Nets nipped by Warriors despite Kyrie Irving’s heroics

SAN FRANCISCO — A comeback that came up short. A call that went unchallenged. And a weeklong losing slump that has dropped the Nets from the Eastern Conference penthouse to the brink of the play-in.

Shorthanded Brooklyn, playing without Kevin Durant and now James Harden, crawled out of a huge deficit only to fall 110-106 to the Warriors before a raucous sellout crowd of 18,064 at the palatial Chase Center. Depleted Brooklyn also lost LaMarcus Aldridge, who left with a sprained ankle in the fourth quarter. He was on crutches after the game.

The Nets trailed by as many as 19 points, and 74-56 midway through the third quarter before Kyrie Irving led a 25-4 run that put them ahead by three in the fourth.

And even after Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson finally broke through against a strong Brooklyn defense, Irving’s 3-pointer had the Nets within 107-106 with 10 seconds to play. But on the ensuing Warriors possession, Irving was whistled for a foul on Curry, who was going to take an inbounds pass.

Kyrie Irving, who scored 32 points, drives to the basket during the Nets’ 110-106 loss to the Warriors.
NBAE via Getty Images

“It was just inadvertent contact. I wasn’t in the right guarding position at a point. I was stuck in the moment just trying to get some clarity. But overall, it could’ve gone either way,” Irving said. “At the end of games you kind of expect an aggressive style of play, and I thought I was in a legal guard position but the refs disagreed, so it could have gone either way. It was a big play, for sure.”

Despite Irving’s protestations, Curry predictably sank his free throw to make the lead two, and when Irving had to take a foul, Thompson hit both for the margin.

Coach Steve Nash didn’t challenge the call. When asked if he was surprised, Irving said it likely wouldn’t have done any good.

“I know our coaches do a great job of having conversations and when the game is on the line like that, on the balance, it could have gone either way, so you just trust Steve’s judgment,” Irving said. “But from looking at the top of the screen, I saw that my foot was in Klay’s way and he tripped and that’s going to be a foul any day of the week, any game. Sorry.”

As far as why Nash didn’t challenge, he was coy.

Stephen Curry celebrates during the Warriors' win over the Nets.
Stephen Curry celebrates during the Warriors’ win over the Nets.
NBAE via Getty Images

“I’ll get someone in trouble if I say why. A little bird said, don’t challenge,” said Nash, adding the refs told him, “[It was a] foul. Hundred percent foul.

“If they’re not gonna overturn it, they’re not gonna overturn it, so tried to keep our timeout.”

The Nets (29-20) dropped their fourth in a row, and are 2 ½ games behind the first-place Miami Heat. They’re a full game behind fifth-place Milwaukee, and just 1 ½ ahead of seventh-place Charlotte for the play-in.

Irving had 32 points, seven assists and seven boards. He had 21 points in the second half, playing unvaccinated over the protestations of San Francisco board supervisor Matt Haney. Patty Mills added 24 points, but that — and some tough defense — wasn’t enough.

Golden State (37-13) came in having won four straight and boasting the second-best record in the league. And the Warriors showed why.

The Nets actually did a strong job on the superstar Splash Brothers. Curry (19 points on 5-for-18 shooting) and Thompson (16 points on 5-for-14 shooting). But Andrew Wiggins had 24 and Jordan Poole added 17.

“Just having a resolve out there and when I say that, we had a team out there in the Warriors that are legends, man. They’ve got a few legends on their team, so they’re making high-level basketball plays,” Irving said. “The whistle was going back and forth, those guys shoot a ton of threes, so getting back in the game was tough, but I felt like in that third quarter, we found something as a team and we can carry that over into the next game.”

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