PHILADELPHIA — First the Nets lost their star, then they lost a heartbreaker.
Hours after Kyrie Irving elected for season-ending shoulder surgery, the Nets blew what would’ve been their best win of the season, squandering a late lead in a 112-104 overtime loss Thursday to the 76ers.
It was a crushing way to come out of the All-Star break for the Nets (25-29), who had won four of five since Irving went down with a knee injury. Now, he will miss the entire rest of the season because of shoulder surgery.
The Sixers bounced the Nets out of the 2019 playoffs and dominated in three games this season. Yet despite the usual dominance by Joel Embiid, the Nets had rallied from an early 16-point hole to lead 101-95 with 2:16 left in regulation.
It was a lead they couldn’t hold. They let the Sixers close on an 8-2 run and got blocked at the buzzer in regulation to send the game into overtime. That’s when Philadelphia wrested the game away.
Spencer Dinwiddie (22 points, game-high eight assists) made the second of two free throws to break the ice. But Alec Burks converted a three-point play on the other end to put Philadelphia up by a deuce, then Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert (team-high 25 points, six rebounds) turned the ball over on consecutive possessions.
Shake Milton’s drive pushed the Sixers’ lead to 108-104, and Burks’ 16-foot jumper made it a half-dozen. Kenny Atkinson called a timeout with 1:32 left, but the damage was done.
DeAndre Jordan had 14 points and 15 boards off the bench to spell an ineffective Jarrett Allen. The young Nets center was utterly dominated by Embiid, who had 11 of his game-high 39 points in the first five minutes to put the Nets in a 20-4 hole.
Long Island native Tobias Harris added 22 for the Sixers, who are 35-21.
“Tremendous respect. They’ve dominated us for three games,” Atkinson said beforehand. “We had a shot to beat them last game, some regrets there. Listen, Brett [Brown] has done a fantastic job. I wouldn’t want to play them in the playoffs. They’re better than they were last year.”
The Sixers improved to 26-2 at home.
After watching Allen get worked by Embiid, Atkinson pulled his young center and put in Jordan. The bruising veteran’s impact standing toe to toe with Embiid was clear and immediate. The Nets promptly ripped off a 24-6 spurt to take a two-point lead on Wilson Chandler’s 3-pointer.
The extended run reached 40-10 by the time Allen checked back in with 5:42 in the half. And when Joe Harris took a Taurean Prince feed for a driving layup, Brooklyn had padded the cushion to 50-30. The Sixers called a timeout and were showered with boos from the home crowd, who have gotten spoiled by success.
But this was never going to be that easy. Philadelphia cut the lead in half at 52-42 by the break and erased it altogether by the time Milton converted a three-point play for a 76-75 lead. A missed 3 by LeVert led to a fast-break layup by Furkan Korkmaz, and an 83-78 Philadelphia edge with 9:50 to play.
The Nets pulled even at 89-, 91- and 93-all. And after briefly taking a six-point lead, they flushed it and got sent into overtime when Chandler was blocked by Embiid.
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