Basketball: Kerr laments Warriors’ inability to close out games

Royce O'Neale (foreground) of the Brooklyn Nets celebrates a basket in the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors at the Chase Center. PHOTO: AFP

SAN FRANCISCO – Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr said the reigning National Basketball Association champions are under .500 because they can’t “close out games” after squandering a double-digit lead for the third straight game.

Royce O’Neale buried a go-ahead three-pointer with 28.5sec remaining, Kyrie Irving capped a 38-point performance with a pair of clinching free throws 14sec later and the Brooklyn Nets defeated the Warriors 120-116 on Sunday night in San Francisco.

With the win, Brooklyn completed a two-game sweep of the season series against the Warriors.

Kerr told ESPN: “We’re 23-24 for a reason. We’re not good enough to close games... it feels like we’re getting close and then we have a lapse.”

His star guard Stephen Curry added: “Losing is a terrible feeling... That’s our challenge, to not be in the situation where every other night we are explaining why we didn’t get the job done.”

Irving won a scoring duel with Curry 38-26 and got a lot more help from his fellow starters as the Nets won their second straight after beginning their five-game trip with back-to-back losses.

Surviving the potential embarrassment of continual intentional fouling on him, Nic Claxton made six of his 15 foul shots en route to a 24-point, 15-rebound double-double for Brooklyn, who were playing once again without an injured Kevin Durant.

After leading for most of the first half, only to see the Nets draw even in the third quarter, the Warriors used superior play from their bench to build a 110-98 advantage on a Jonathan Kuminga lay-up with 5min 42sec remaining.

The Nets dominated the finish, however, using a nine-point burst that featured seven points from Claxton to get within arm’s length, then a Joe Harris three-pointer to tie 112-112 with 1:52 to go.

Two free throws by Curry gave the Warriors one last lead at 116-115 with 1:12 to go, but O’Neale turned Irving’s ninth assist into the biggest hoop of the night.

The star guard then hit his two foul shots after Klay Thompson’s attempt at a three-pointer was off the mark with 20.1sec left.

Said Irving: “My teammates had a lot of great looks, drawing the defence, drawing two, three to lose their man. Royce being wide open, I felt like that was the best shot for our team.”

O’Neale finished with 16 points, Harris 14 points and Seth Curry 12 for the Nets, who got 99 points from their starters. Another starter, Ben Simmons, added a game-high 11 assists and seven points to the cause.

The Nets’ bench chipped in with just 21 points, which was one more than Kuminga had for the Warriors on a four-man reserve crew that totalled 50 points.

Kevon Looney (14 points) and Donte DiVincenzo (13) also scored in double figures off the Golden State bench, while starters Jordan Poole and Thompson had 17 and 10 points, respectively.

Looney completed a double-double with 10 rebounds, while DiVincenzo had a team-high eight assists.

Draymond Green contributed nine points, 11 rebounds and seven assists to the loss, which was Golden State’s fourth straight at home. REUTERS

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