When the Nets’ season concludes, and what many anticipate will be a mostly forgettable campaign fades from memory with the passage of time, at the very least, there will always be this: They held a second-half lead against the unbeaten Warriors. In two different games.
But, once again, perfection was not to be denied. The Nets, who turned a 17-point first-half deficit into a five-point third- quarter lead, fell to the Warriors, 114-98, Sunday night at Barclays Center.
The Warriors extended their winning streak to 26 games, dating to last season, for the third-longest streak in NBA history. They trail the 1971-72 Lakers, who won 33 straight, and the 2012-2013 Miami Heat, who won 27. The Warriors, 22-0 this season, next play Indiana on Tuesday in the fifth game of a seven-game road trip.
“That’s pretty amazing when you think about how difficult it is to win in this league,” Lionel Hollins said before the game. “I’ve always said it’s the mark of a team that rises up and becomes champion, the next year they have so much more confidence and belief that nobody can beat them. That’s where they are right now.”
Brook Lopez’s bank shot from the top of the key, and a three by Shane Larkin gave the Nets a 75-70 lead with 3:10 remaining in the third. But the Warriors closed the quarter on a 17-5 run. Stephen Curry’s one-handed runner off the glass in transition evened the score at 76 with 2:10 left in the third. Next time down, he hit a pull-up three to put the Warriors up 79-76 with 1:45 remaining. Lopez’s hook in the paint pulled the Nets within 79-78. After a missed three by Bojan Bogdanovic, Curry lobbed an alley-oop from three-point territory to Festus Ezeli, who slammed it down for an 81-78 lead. After a jumper by Joe Johnson, Ezeli found a cutting Curry, who converted a reverse layup plus the foul for a three-point play to open an 84-80 lead. Jarrett Jack then missed a runner, Draymond Green grabbed the rebounded and found Curry, who pump faked to elude Larkin, and then hit the three to send the Warriors into the fourth with an 87-80 lead.
With Curry and Klay Thompson on the bench to open the fourth, the Warriors’ second unit blew the game open. By the time the starters checked in midway through the quarter, the lead had swelled to 106-89.
Curry had 28 points, Green added 22 and Thompson had 21.
The victory extended the greatest start in the history of professional sports. The Warriors’ win over the Raptors on Saturday night allowed them to surpass the 1884 St. Louis Maroons baseball team, of the Union Association, for best start to a season.
But the Nets lingered longer than it seemed they would.
Thompson drained a wide-open three in the corner and Curry followed with a three of his own as the Warriors opened a 57-42 lead with 1:49 left in the second. Johnson sent a pass downcourt to Markel Brown, who laid it in for the start of a 12-0 run by the Nets to close the half. Larkin then intercepted Curry’s outlet pass and fed Thaddeus Young for the layup with 56.2 seconds left in second. Jack drew the foul on a three-point attempt and hit all three free throws to trim the deficit to 57-51. After a missed layup by Thompson, the Nets pushed the ball downcourt and Johnson hit a corner three with two seconds left to send the Nets into the break trailing just 57-54.
Young finished with 25 points, including a hook shot in the paint that gave the Nets their first lead at 58-57 early in the third quarter. Lopez had 18.
In their first meeting in Golden State on Nov. 14, the Nets nearly halted the Warriors’ winning streak at 10 games. Brooklyn led the Warriors by 17 in the first half and held a three-point lead in the final 10 seconds. Lopez missed a point-blank shot at the end of regulation and the Warriors went on to win, 107-99, in overtime.