By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Kris Humphries has been around for 22-44, 24-58 and 12-70 -- the Nets' record in each of the previous three seasons.
When asked if he and his Brooklyn teammates could take anything out of Tuesday night's 117-111 loss to the reigning Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder before a crowd of 17,732 at the Barclays Center, the veteran power forward refused to see any silver linings in the defeat, which was the Nets' second in nine home games during their historic first season in our fair borough.
"A loss is a loss to us," insisted Humphries, who finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds in Brooklyn's second straight loss overall. "We're not the Nets of the past few years. No moral victories. We're trying to win games. Friday [against Golden State], that's our approach: get a win. We can't go on losing streaks. That's not what this year's about."
At 11-6, the Nets are 1 1/2 games behind the East River rival Knicks for the top spot in the Atlantic Division.
In years past, that would have been enough successs to prompt chest-thumping and jersey-popping. Instead, Brooklyn players were deeply disappointed in their performance, especially after falling behind 61-48 at the half in their second straight game against an NBA Finalist from a season ago.
"I challenged them a little bit at halftime. I was disappointed by the way we played in the first half. I didn't see the Brooklyn Nets," admitted coach Avery Johnson, whose team failed in its bid to rebound from a 102-89 loss at world champion Miami on Saturday. "We should win when we score 111 points. I give our guys credit because after halftime we came out with great energy and focus."
The Nets showed considerable pluck in putting up a season-best 38 points in the third quarter, but despite numerous bids to pull even over go ahead over the final 12 minutes, they were ultimately denied by Thunder forward Kevin Durant, who finished with a team-high 32 points to lead Oklahoma City to its season-high sixth consecutive victory.
"We put ourselves in a bad position. It was tough," noted Humphries, who had his bid for a spectacular block on Durant in the fourth quarter wiped out by a controversial goaltending call, which a series of replays could not reverse.
Deron Williams, the Nets' $100 million point guard, had his best offensive performance of the season in the defeat, notching a game-high 33 points to go with seven assists and four rebounds. But it wasn't enough to get the Nets back in the win column in their third straight game without injured center Brook Lopez, who continues to work his way back from a mild foot sprain.
"We got down early and weren't able to get over the hump," said Williams. "I haven't been as aggressive as I should be [this season]. I kind of forget about my offense and become a little too unselfish. It's one of those things that takes time. It'll come together. We're all trying to figure out where everything fits. The last two games were losses to the two teams that were in the Finals last year."
Johnson, who always thinks defense first, was dismayed by the Thunder's blistering 60 percent shooting percentage, as was his undisputed floor leader.
"We can't let a team like that shoot 60 percent against us," Williams said.
The Nets will try to avoid their first three-game skid of the campaign when they host the Warriors on Friday night. After that, Brooklyn will welcome Milwaukee to the Barclays Center on Sunday before Tuesday's second showdown of the season with the Knicks, whom they vanquished during their first visit Downtown on Nov. 26.
Andray Blatch, starting in place of Lopez, posted his second double-double of the season with 19 points and 11 boards, but the piercing combo of Durant and point guard Russell Westbrook (25 points, nine assists) proved too much for a Nets squad that was also without reserve forward Reggie Evans due to flu-like symptoms.
"They've won at the highest level and they know how to play together," Williams said of Oklahoma City's dynamic duo. "We're still trying to figure things out.''
Unlike seasons past, however, the Nets won't be content to let that process play out over the course of the season. The time is now for Brooklyn to get its bounce back.
Hoop du Jour: The Nets had won six in a row at Barclays -- their longest home winning streak since 2006. ... Rookie forward Mirza Teletovic scored a career-high eight points on 3-of-6 shooting, including 2-of-5 from long range, in 11 minutes off the bench. ... G Joe Johnson scored 18 points, but misfired on 13-of-21 attempts as his season shooting average fell to just above 40 percent. ... C Lopez, who played the full 82-game slate in each of his first three pro seasons before missing all but five games last year due to a variety of foot and ankle issues, could be back in the lineup Friday if he gets some practice time in during the week. Lopez had a precautionary MRI on his injured right foot earlier this week, but the results came back negative. ... The Thunder lead the NBA in scoring average and have put up at least 100 points in each of their last 10 games.