• Erik Slater

Nets collapse in final minutes in loss to Clippers

The Brooklyn Nets cannot close out a basketball game. They proved that once again Sunday night in a painful 123-120 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

After playing poorly for the majority of the first half, the Nets managed to climb back into the game. Kenny Atkinson's squad built an eight point lead with just over three minutes remaining. From that point on, they completely collapsed.

As was the case against Sacramento, the Nets could not score or defend in the final minutes. Los Angeles would finish the game on a 13-2 run, cementing another brutal loss for Brooklyn.

Caris LeVert led Brooklyn with 27 points on 5-7 shooting from three. LeVert's play and D'Angelo Russell's carelessness with the ball forced Atkinson to bench Russell for the entire fourth quarter.

Brooklyn's starting backcourt struggled to find a rhythm in Los Angeles. Spencer Dinwiddie, Allen Crabbe, and Russell combined for just 18 points on 2-23 shooting from the field.

The Nets led 120-118 with possession with under a minute remaining. Dinwiddie held the ball for the majority of the shot clock and settled for a contested three that missed short.

On the following possession, Austin Rivers would nail a step back three over LeVert to put the Clippers in front 121-120 with 33.5 seconds remaining.

Atkinson opted to go with the hot hand in LeVert in need of a clutch basket. However, the 23-year-old would drive into traffic and turn the ball over, a consistent theme at the end of games for this young Nets team.

Lou Williams drained a mid-range pull-up over LeVert on the other end to extend the Clippers' lead to three with nine seconds remaining.

Brooklyn inbounded to Dinwiddie who would pick up his dribble and find Joe Harris. His three-point attempt would be blocked. Harris rebounded the block and threw up a prayer that missed short.

This loss is a tough one to stomach for Brooklyn. It is yet another example of the lack of closers on the roster.

Russell was thought to be that guy in the beginning of the season. While he shows flashes of brilliance, the 22-year-old continues to be careless with the ball and unaware of situations at the end of games.

Dinwiddie emerged as the Nets' closer midway through the season. However, he has reverted back to settling for contested three-pointers at the end of games.

His success in the clutch this season came solely when he began attacking the basket and putting pressure on defenders. The Nets need him to get back to that if they want to close out teams late in games.

It won't get any easier for the Nets going forward as they will face the Golden State Warriors Tuesday night at Oracle Arena.