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Without Kevin Durant again, Nets set to face Spurs

Jan 15, 2023; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) reacts during the third quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets will be out to prove they can win again without Kevin Durant when they travel to San Antonio to play the struggling Spurs on Tuesday night.

The Nets will make their only trip of the regular season to San Antonio after a 112-102 loss at home to Oklahoma City on Sunday.

Brooklyn dropped its second straight game since Durant went down with a knee injury that will keep him sidelined for at least another week. The team also played without Ben Simmons, who has a sore back.

Seth Curry paced the Nets with 23 points off the bench in the loss while Nic Claxton added 17 points and 13 rebounds to record his team-leading 13th double-double. Kyrie Irving scored 15 points and Royce O’Neale tallied 11 for Brooklyn.

“These are warmup games for the big performance that comes in late April,” Irving said. “Just gotta enjoy them and smile sometimes at how you lose and just be able to pick yourself back up.”

The Nets were up 80-75 heading to the final quarter but immediately surrendered a 15-6 run and never regained the lead. Brooklyn was doomed by 29.3 percent shooting from 3-point range.

“The challenge for us as a group (is) to be able to sustain,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said. “They have to dig in and have a mental fortitude greater than before. Because every possession does matter.”

Tuesday’s contest will be the first in a five-game trip for the Nets that also will take them to Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Philadelphia over a nine-day span.

The Spurs are just trying to find any way to win. San Antonio has dropped five straight games and eight of its past nine, including 132-119 at home to Sacramento on Sunday.

Jakob Poeltl led the Spurs with 23 points while Josh Richardson added 21 and Keldon Johnson scored 20. Key reserve Doug McDermott missed the game with upper-back tightness.

“We made too many mistakes,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “It’s a lot easier to score when you make stops. We were making so many defensive mistakes. The good part is that they never give in. They keep on pushing. They keep on trying. With the defensive mistakes, it makes it tough on ourselves.”

San Antonio led 64-63 at halftime but couldn’t slow the Kings in a pivotal third quarter and trailed 102-90 heading into the fourth. San Antonio clawed to within four points in the final quarter but could not get over the hump.

“It’s a lot about building habits,” Poeltl said. “We had a lack of focus (in the third quarter), a lack of effort. Those mistakes are really hurting us. I think we are all aware this is a learning season for us. Even for the guys that have a little more experience.”

The Spurs have not won consecutive games since they captured three straight from Dec. 8-12.

–Field Level Media

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