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The Nets’ need for a backup center is evident in the home loss to the Kings


If Nerlens Noel wasn’t the answer to Brooklyn’s backup center debacle, the Nets had better find another answer, and soon.

Days after the Nets refused to give Noel a second 10-day contract, the Nets were eliminated on the glass in a 101-96 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Thursday.

As versatile as starting center Nic Claxton is at both ends of the floor, his biggest flaw, brute force, remains a priority for the Nets.

Especially if second-year forward Day’Ron Sharpe, who was available but didn’t play against the Kings on Thursday, is out of the rotation.

That’s because the kicker remains the archetypal player who knocks down and stampedes the Nets at all times.

What has been true of the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers was true of the Nets’ loss to the league’s No. 1 offense on St. Patrick’s Day eve.

Just as the Nets have rotational limitations that make them susceptible to being trampled by the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid, Brooklyn had no answer for Kings All-Star Domantas Sabonis.

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Sabonis punished the Nets from the opening point to the final buzzer. Head coach Jacque Vaughn tried a variety of rotation tactics, from staying big with Claxton to going small with 6-5 Royce O’Neale playing back-up five, but all failed.

The son of NBA legend Arvydas Sabonis finished with 24 points, 21 rebounds and five assists on the night. He came into the night averaging 20 points, 10 rebounds and six assists per game against the Nets since signing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the summer of 2019. On the season, the Kings star is averaging 19 points, 12 rebounds and seven. assists. .

And his play was the embodiment of one of Brooklyn’s oldest problems as the Nets head into their final 10 regular season games in search of a playoff spot: the inability to stop the puncher, of which there are plenty in the Eastern Conference.

The Nets limited All-Star point guard De’Aaron Fox to just four points in the first half and 18 points on 5-of-16 shooting that night. Former Net Kessler Edwards hit a pair of well-timed 3-pointers off the bench for the Kings and four other Sacramento players scored in double figures.

The Kings did damage, however, on the glass, outrebounding the Nets, 57-41. Claxton finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds, but no other Nets player grabbed more than six.

And now the Nets are off to a suboptimal start to a four-game home stand against legitimate championship contenders. They host Nikola Jokic, another bully, and the Denver Nuggets in a Sunday morning game before hosting Donovan Mitchell and the Cleveland Cavaliers for back-to-back games immediately after.

“It is important in several ways. First of all, at the moment we are in the season and trying to take advantage of every opportunity. Every game you watch, every night you watch games, they’re all important for one reason or another,” Vaughn said. “I think what I’m looking for is, on the road, we played some really good quarters, we played some great halves as well, so can we put four quarters together? That’s what I’m looking for because if you don’t do it this week, you’ll definitely pay for it. That’s definitely what I’m looking forward to.”

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