Nets go 2-1 entering All-Star break after losing 11 straight

A night after a star-making performance at The Garden, Cam Thomas was unable to will the Nets to victory on Thursday. (John Minchillo/AP)

The Nets needed more late-game heroics if they were going to escape unscathed in their final three games before the NBA All-Star break. Those heroics didn’t happen, but they’ll gladly settle for 2-1.

One day after Cam Thomas powered the Nets to a 28-point comeback victory over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, the Nets didn’t have enough steam to pull off a similar rally against the Washington Wizards.

They trailed by as many as 14 in an eventual 117-103 loss—their final game until returning from the All-Star break to host the Boston Celtics on Feb. 24.

Both the Nets and Wizards have been beaten by injury and absences. For Brooklyn, Kevin Durant is nursing an MCL sprain, Ben Simmons hasn’t yet made his Nets debut, Kyrie Irving is ineligible for home games, and Joe Harris is out indefinitely after a setback in his ankle surgery rehab. For the Wizards, All-NBA scorer Bradley Beal underwent season-ending wrist surgery and ex-Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis has yet to make his D.C. debut after the Spencer Dinwiddie trade with the Dallas Mavericks.

The result was a Thursday-night matchup between two teams’ B squads. Thomas was able to shoulder the load for the Nets on Wednesday, but two games in two nights is a tall task, even for a rookie with young, spry legs.

Nets’ veteran guard Patty Mills lit it up for five threes and moved into fourth place on the Nets’ single-season three-point leaderboard. He is participating in the Three-Point Contest during this weekend’s festivities, so Thursday night was essentially target practice—and Mills’ aim was dead-on—a trend head coach Steve Nash expects to continue during the All-Star break.

“Yes, my money’s on Patty as long as I didn’t wear the legs off him all season so that he has nothing left in Cleveland but all things considered my money’s on Patty,” the coach said.

The Nets got 43 points off the bench, including 20 from Thomas, 16 from LaMarcus Aldridge and 14 from Jevon Carter. That wasn’t enough to slow down the WIzards, who had seven players score in double figures. Rui Hachimura led the way with 20 off the bench, and sharpshooter Corey Kispert lit it up with four threes on the night.

Things still end on a positive note in Brooklyn, where the Nets snapped an 11-game losing streak with back-to-back wins against the Kings and Knicks before falling to the Wizards on Thursday. Most importantly, when the Nets return from their break, they are expecting Durant and Simmons to join the rotation and lead the charge in the second half of the season.

The Nets have plummeted down the Eastern Conference standings and enter the break as the eighth seed. That’s play-in tournament territory, but with superstar bodies set to rejoin the team in the coming weeks, things are expected to turn right some time soon, according to Nash.[More Sports] Andre Drummond will be the Nets’ featured center, when he’s ready to handle the minutes »

“We’re excited. We have 22 games to come together as a team. Kevin returning, Ben returning. Hopefully we have a good run of health where we can really build something in a short period of time and get a better seed and also more cohesions going into the playoffs.”

Mills agreed but said the break was just what the doctor ordered for the struggling squad.

“I think we’re at a point with what we’ve been through so far in the season with a whole bunch of adversity and hurdles. COVID, injuries, whatever you want to call it, I think where we’re at right now is a much needed break for everyone. For everyone to get away, enjoy their families, spend some time away to be able to hit the reset button.”