Defense Falters Again As Nets Lose Third Straight to Warriors, 109-102

Josh Newman, SNYNets.com

Joe Johnson

Joe Johnson

NEW YORK — A third straight poor defensive performance from the Brooklyn Nets led to a third straight loss on Friday evening.

Ex-New York Knick David Lee torched the Nets for 13 of his team-high 30 points in the fourth quarter to go along with 15 rebounds, Stephen Curry added 21 of his 28 after halftime and the Golden State Warriors became the third straight team to score at least 100 points against the Nets in a 109-102 win at Barclays Center.

Joe Johnson finished with a game-high 32 points for his first 30-point effort as a Net and his first 30-point effort since April 20 of last season when he was still with the Atlanta Hawks. Deron Williams added 23 points and eight assists for the Nets, who shot just 14-for-41 in the second half, were outscored on fastbreak points, 24-2, and yielded 50 Warriors points in the paint on 25-for-50 shooting.

“They started making shots and our transition defense regressed,” Nets head coach Avery Johnson said. “Our problem is defense. We are not the same team defensively, so we have to get back and figure it out. Everything is on the table right now in terms of trying to figure out how to get our team out of this defensive struggle.”

Lee’s big fourth quarter

The Warriors’ 6-foot-9 double-double threat was already having himself a strong night with 17 points and 11 rebounds through three quarters, but his fourth quarter helped put the Warriors over the top.

With the game tied at 89 with just under nine minutes to play, Lee scored six straight points on two 16-foot jumpers and a put back off a missed Curry 3-pointer to give the Warriors a 95-89 lead with 6:37 left.

A short jumper, plus the foul on Andray Blatche with 2:53 to play put the Warriors up 102-96 and sucked the life out of the arena to all but end it.

“It is always fun when you can play well, but if the team is not winning, it really ruins it and tonight is just another example of a good team win for us,” Lee said. “We are off to a great start and we hope to continue that game-by-game.”

Lee, in the third year of a 6-year, $80 million contract, is among the league leaders in double-doubles with 11.

Curry stays hot

The ankle injury that cost Curry much of last season and most of this preseason certainly played a role  in him agreeing to only a 4-year, $44 million contract extension. Curry accepted what many believe was a smaller offer than he would have received on the open market based on his career numbers.

With those injuries behind him, Curry is off to a good start to this season, averaging 19.1 points and 6.6 assists through his first 18 games. The 28 points he scored Friday marked his 12th game of at least 20 points and his sixth straight.

“He got hot,” Williams said of Curry. “He is just one of those players that you could be guarding him two or three feet behind the line, but then he can still rise up and make the shot. He got himself going and gave adrenaline to the team.”

Johnson goes off

During a slow start to the season for Joe Johnson, Avery Johnson has been adamant that the six-time All-Star would figure everything out around mid-December. As mid-December approaches, Avery appears to be correct.

Johnson’s 32-point night marked the fifth time in the last six games he has scored at least 18 points.

On Friday, he caught fire early, hitting for 15 points and shooting 6-for-7 from the floor in the first quarter as the Nets raced out to a 31-24 lead.

“The ball’s been moving, getting a lot of open shots and creating off the dribble, making plays,” Joe Johnson said. “I’m not more concerned about me though. I just want our team to find that chemistry that we need to put wins together, winning streaks, that’s what we have to get back to.”

Blatche continues to flourish

As injured center Brook Lopez continues to nurse a sprained right foot,continues to more than adequate as a replacement.

Averaging 17.7 points and 9.3 rebounds while shooting 51 percent from the floor over the last three games as a starter in place of Lopez, the 6-foot-11 Blatche finished Friday night with a season-high 22 points and 15 rebounds while shooting 8-for-13 from the floor.

The one setback of Blatche playing this well as a starter is that his production could really be used in his normal role with the second unit.

“It was just a tough game for us,” Blatche said. “We’re gonna come in tomorrow and look at some tape and improve on our mistakes. That’s pretty much it. We made a lot mental mistakes that we’ll improve on tomorrow.”

One particular play highlighted the night for Blatche. With time running down in the second quarter, he found himself with the ball on the right wing and no one in his face. After thinking about it for a few seconds and with the crowd egging him on, Blatche lofted and hit a 3-pointer with five-tenths of a second left to give the Nets a 63-55 halftime lead.

The 3-pointer was Blatche’s first of the season and just the 35th of his career in 427 career regular season games.

Lopez update

During his pregame media availability, Avery Johnson said Lopez got shots up and did some light running on Friday.

The plan for Lopez was to get more treatment on Friday night and see how he responds before deciding what he can do in practice on Saturday. The Nets are home to the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday evening, but Johnson has stated multiple times that Lopez will not play until he goes full at practice.

Lopez has missed the last four games since injuring himself on Nov. 28 at the Boston Celtics.

Prokhorov shows up

Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov entered his suite at Barclays Center late in the third quarter. The Russian billionaire is scheduled to take in the team’s next two games as well, against the Bucks on Sunday and the New York Knicks next Tuesday. Prokhorov said during his last trip to Brooklyn in early November that he would attend roughly 30 percent of the team’s home games this season. The Nets are now 1-2 with Prokhorov in the building.

Free throws

The 31 points the Nets scored in the first quarter marked the fifth time they hit for at least 30 in the opening stanza…In addition to the Warriors being the third consecutive team to score at least 100 points against the Nets, they are also the third straight team to shoot 50 percent or better against the Nets…Friday night marked the sixth sellout (17,732) in 10 contests at Barclays Center this season.

Final word

“We gotta figure it out, we gotta figure it out. I saw a couple guys hanging their heads tonight, that’s not good. That’s not mental toughness.”–Avery Johnson

Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter or up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA