The Nets coughed up a 7-point lead entering the fourth quarter and suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, 90-88, on Friday night at Barclays Center. It is just the sixth win of the year for Philadelphia, who improve to 6-29, while the Nets have suffered four straight losses and are now 16-20.
On if this loss is tougher than others, Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins said, “You act like we are one of the better teams in the East, or in the league, we’re not, we are right down there with them, Philadelphia, we just have a few more wins. That’s all it is. People keep saying ‘that’s a bad loss,’ we are just trying to get wins, against anybody we can. It is a struggle to get wins when you can’t score and we make turnovers, and we make bad decisions. It’s a bad loss because we wanted to win this one. It was at home, it was a winnable game, we had the lead, and we move on.”
Hollins is incorrect when he says the Nets “are right down there with them, we just have a few more wins.” In actuality, the Nets entered this one with 11 more wins and 10 1/2 games ahead of them in the standings. The Nets entered tonight in seventh place in the East, while the Sixers have one team worse than them in the league, and that is the Knicks. There were six teams between the Nets and Sixers in the standings: Boston, Indiana, Detroit, Miami, Charlotte, and Orlando.
The Nets led 71-64 at the end of the third, and things had gone very well to that point. Mason Plumlee had 15 points and 15 rebounds. Brook Lopez had 16 points and 5 rebounds. Jarrett Jack had 12 points and 9 rebounds. Joe Johnson had 11 points.
For some reason, Hollins chose to sit both Lopez and Plumlee for the first nine minutes of the fourth for Jerome Jordan, as he went with a “small lineup” which included Darius Morris, Alan Anderson, Mirza Teletovic, and Joe Johnson. Guess how that turned out.
The Sixers rallied and pulled to within a point on a Robert Covington three-pointer with 3:14 left. At that point, Hollins finally went back to Lopez and pulled Jordan. Plumlee came back in at the 2:41 mark for Morris, after Tony Wroten completed a three-point play to give Philly an 88-86 lead.
The Nets’ offense from that point on was inept, as Lopez missed a long jumper, Jack made a turnover, and Johnson missed a short jumper and the put-back with 1:06 remaining.
The Nets ended up tying the game on a Lopez floating jumper with 25.3 seconds left, and you could tell he enjoyed it, kind of showing Hollins why he should be out there at the end of games. But, of course, Hollins pulled him on the next defensive possession for Morris, going with a “small” lineup once again.
Michael Carter-Williams had the ball at the top of the key with Jack on him and the lane was so clear you could drive a truck through it. With 8 seconds on the clock, Carter-Williams drove the lane and found Nerlens Noel open under the basket on the left side and Noel slammed it home with 3.2 left to make it 90-88 Sixers.
Lopez and Teletovic were back in there for the final possession, which was so muddled, Lopez took a last-second three from by the logo at half-court, which barely grazed the rim, leaving the Barclays Center in a stunned silence followed by a chorus of booing. The Nets were outscored 26-17 in the fourth quarter.
Carter-Williams said of the last play, “I knew I wanted to penetrate the defense and either see if I could get a shot at the basket or a pull up. But once I saw the defense come in and help on me, Nerlens made a great play by finding the open area. I knew he’d have a good chance of scoring. Tonight was really his night, probably the best I’ve seen him play. He had a hell of a game. At the end of the game when I knew he had the ball, I knew he was going to finish it. And we’ve been really talking about him really dunking the ball when he gets down low and not laying it up. I think he is taking good strides in that. He finished with authority. He really played well for us tonight, not only offensively but defensively he was great. He was in the right position the whole game. A couple of us struggled but at the end we all put it together. It was a great win overall.”
Philadelphia Head Coach Brett Brown said of Noel’s game winner, “We wanted to – most people will switch that so we flipped it. We were working Nerlens (Noel) in the pick-and-roll for the three previous possessions and we came up empty. And we changed that with Luc (Mbah a Moute), bringing Luc up and getting him out of there quick and letting Nerlens navigate along the baseline and Michael (Carter-Williams) has different reads, either Luc on pick-and-pop or Nerlens working that low zone behind that back and he’s got his strong hand, his right hand; we knew he wanted the last shot. We really tried to get greedy and take the last shot and if you’re trying to be perfect we went probably a second too early, but we got Nerlens and it worked out well. Michael Carter-Williams did a hell of a job navigating that play as the game closed out.”
Hollins said of sitting Lopez and Plumlee for so long in the fourth, “When we out them back in, did we have the lead? No. We had the lead and lost the lead. I thought Romey (Jerome Jordan) played extremely well, I thought other guys played extremely well, they had played the whole third quarter and we needed to have some breaks. I was trying to keep a couple of guys in, and when they went back in, they didn’t play as well. Nobody played that well in the fourth, we had 17 points. Somebody’s got to sit and rest, you can’t play the guys the whole game. You saw about 37 (minutes) for Jarrett (Jack) and 38 for Joe (Johnson), plus I took Brook out of the game because we weren’t doing anything constructive defensively, and then all of a sudden we perked up and we got the lead.”
On what allowed Philadelphia to come back, Hollins said, “We kept turning the ball over and just making bad decisions. Ultimately the 18 turnovers, we only scored 17 points in the fourth quarter. When we executed and made good decisions and defended and rebounded, we were ahead, soon as we relaxed and made some bad decisions on offense, made some bad decisions on defense, they came back.”
Mason Plumlee said of the loss, “It’s a tough loss. I thought we had a lot of chances to pull away. We’d get up by nine, 10 pointsand then we’re right back in the game, so it’s tough. They’re pros. They’re good players, so they’re going to make a run if you don’t put them away.
On watching the game slip away while he was on the bench, Plumlee said, “Well, as a player, it’s always tough being on the bench inn crucial times, but Rome (Jerome Jordan) played really well. He came in, dunked, hit those free throws, blocked a shot and rebounded very well. So I see where Lionel was going cause he was playing well.”
Kevin Garnett rested this first half of the back-to-back and will be in there tomorrow night in Detroit against the hot Pistons.