Shorthanded Nets can’t stop Anthony Davis in loss to dismal Lakers

LOS ANGELES — The Nets started Sunday shorthanded. They finished it decimated. And defeated. 

Facing a Lakers team tied for the fewest wins in the league, the Nets added to their total. They lost several rotation players and the game, a desultory 116-103 defeat to the LeBron James-less Lakers before a crowd of 18,040 at Arena. 

Already without All-Star Kyrie Irving — missing his sixth consecutive game due to a team suspension — the Nets (6-8) saw Seth Curry and Ben Simmons both ruled out shortly before tipoff. Then they lost starting center Nic Claxton in the third quarter with a left eye contusion. 

Facing a Lakers team that was going to feed the ball to star center Anthony Davis all evening, Claxton might have been the one player the Nets couldn’t afford to lose besides Kevin Durant. And while Durant did his job with machine-like efficiency — 31 points, nine rebounds and seven assists — they predictably got beaten up and worn out inside. 

Kevin Durant shoots during the Nets’ loss to the Lakers.
Getty Images

Jacque Vaughn suffered the first bad loss of his brief Nets head coaching career. He had wanted to see how they would handle another back-to-back — they’d won the first of his tenure at Washington and Charlotte — and he got his answer. It wasn’t the one he wanted. 

“Yeah, I think that’s the challenge right there: How we respond in the back-to-back game,” Vaughn had warned beforehand. “We had to put out a lot of emotion and energy to win [Saturday], and can we turn around and do it again?” 

They couldn’t. Not even close. 

After drilling the Clippers Saturday night, the Nets got outmuscled by the Lakers (3-10). 

Maybe it was a back-to-back. Or the injuries piling up. Either way, the Nets couldn’t buy a basket from deep, just 7-for-27 from 3-point range. 

The loss of Curry was impactful. They rested him to manage his surgically-repaired ankle but couldn’t manage without him. Curry totaled 45 points as they’d beaten the Knicks and Clippers by a combined 42, going 10-for-19 from deep. But there was nobody to space the floor. 

Anthony Davis
The Nets couldn’t stop Anthony Davis.
NBAE via Getty Images

And they couldn’t slow Davis, getting roughed up and worn out. He had game-highs of 37 points and 18 rebounds, both season bests. Simmons had been serving as the backup center, and losing Claxton robbed them of their starter. 

The Nets trailed, 53-39, after a cutting layup by Pat Beverley with 1:49 left in the half, and still trailed by nine at the break. 

Davis had 16 points and 11 boards at intermission, and the Nets never found an answer for him. As a matter of fact, it just got worse with the loss of Claxton. 

Jacque Vaughn reacts during the Nets' loss to the Lakers.
Jacque Vaughn reacts during the Nets’ loss to the Lakers.
NBAE via Getty Images

Claxton took a blow to the face and left the game with the Nets down, 62-50, and 8:32 left in the third. He gave way to Markieff Morris and didn’t return. 

The deficit swelled to 77-61 on a 3-pointer by Lonnie Walker IV with 3:56 remaining in the third. That’s when the Nets mounted their last serious rally. They closed the period on a 16-3 run. A Durant bucket pulled them within five, and a Royce O’Neale 3-pointer made it 80-77 to end the third. 

But the Nets never got over the hump in the fourth.

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