The Nets’ tailspin continues as they lost their fourth straight at Barclays Center, to the New Orleans Pelicans 111-91 on Tuesday night, closing out the homestand at 1-4. The Nets are now 25-37, in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, three games behind Charlotte for the eighth and final playoff spot.
The Nets came out firing in this one, jumping out to a 25-11 lead in the first quarter, powered by 10 points from Brook Lopez and 8 from Thaddeus Young. The Pelicans reponded with a 10-0 run, which was broken by a Lopez dunk to give him 12 points for the quarter and the Nets took a 27-23 lead into the second quarter.
The second quarter belonged to New Orleans, as they outscored the Nets 32-19, led by 11 points from Alexis Ajinca off the bench. The second quarter was also costly, as Alan Anderson suffered a tail bone injury late in the frame. The Pelicans took a 55-46 lead into the half.
The Pelicans opened the third on an 8-0 run, with their big men, Anthony Davis and Omer Asik getting four points each in the stretch. The Nets suffered another blow, as Markel Brown suffered a tough leg injury on a play along the baseline at the 8:02 mark when Asik got a put-back layup to make it 63-46. Brown was carried off with an ankle injury, and he said of it afterwards, “It just hurt really bad when I first did it, but other than that, it should be fine. I got driven by, probably if I hadn’t gotten driven by, I wouldn’t have hurt my ankle.”
Brown said of the last four games, “It’s been very tough, especially having leads in most of the games and losing them in the end. It’s tough, especially coming down the stretch, we need those wins.”
The Pelicans buiolt the lead up to 22 on an Eric Gordon three at the 4:31 mark that made it 75-53. The Pelicans outscored the Nets 23-15 in the third, a two-quarter total of 55-34, to take a 78-61 lead to the fourth.
The Nets did not get out of the fourth unscathed, as Sergey Karasev, seeing rare action in “extended garbage time,” hurt his leg in the same way Brown did, twisting it going for a loose ball, and he was carried off.
New Orleans was led by Quincy Pondexter and Alexis Ajinca, who had 17 points each. Pondexter shot 6-for-9 from the field and 5-6 on threes, while Ajinca shot 7-for-14 overall, with 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
Omer Asik had a double-double with 12 points (6-8 FG) and 15 rebounds. Anthony David had 15 points (5-16 FG), 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. The Pelicans’ starting guards, Eric Gordon and Norris Cole had 17 points each, and Gordon chipped in 7 assists and 2 rebounds, while Cole had 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
For the Nets, Jarrett Jack and Brook Lopez had 15 points each. Lopez shot 7-for-14 and had 9 rebounds. Joe Johnson had another dreadful night shooting, making just 4 out of 11 attempts, 2-4 on threes, for 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. Thaddeus Young, after the eight in the first, went ice cold after that, finishing with 10 points on 4-for-14 shooting (1-2 on threes), with 6 rebounds and 2 assists. Deron Williams shot a miserable 3-for-10, 0-2 on threes, with just 4 assists and a rebound.
Jack said of what changed after the first quarter, “We relaxed. They started making shots and we didn’t do a good job of defending them at all tonight. We struggled a bit from the perimeter. You have to give them credit, they fought back even though they were coming in off a back-to-back and put together a hell of a game.”
Jack said of playing poorly at home, “It’s tough, especially with us coming into a home stand thinking that we could be able to protect our home court after we had a pretty good performance coming off the All-Star break. It’s disheartening, the way we’re losing, as well.”
Johnson said of the losses at home after the big win over Golden State on March 2nd, “Yeah, it’s a little mind boggling. Man, honestly, we just – I don’t know. Whether we got off to a great start or slow start, in my eyes, it just seems that we always fight uphill. It’s hard to give ourselves a chance. We just mentally try to stay with it, keep encouraging one another. Obviously, it’s not easy to keep a positive mindset when you’re in a tough stretch like this. You think when you come back that you will probably play some of your best basketball. And for us that just hasn’t been the case. We just got to stay focused. We got what, 20 games left. Believe it or not, it’s still not over.”
Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins said of blowing first-quarter leads in games on this homestand, “Well, that’s all year long. I think that competing is what this business is about, that’s the reason I played, the reason I coach – to compete – it’s not about the money, it’s not about the fame, it’s not about anything but going out there and competing and earning the respect of your opponent. That’s all that matters. People can write good or bad about you, and you can make a lot of money or not make a lot of money, but you know, the money doesn’t matter when you get between the lines.”
The Nets hit the road for a four-game road trip, starting tomorrow night in Miami against the Heat. They then play in Philadelphia on Saturday, in Minnesota against Kevin Garnett and the Timberwolves on Monday the 16th, and in Cleveland on Wednesday the 18th.
Deron Williams said of the road trip, “I mean, we’ve been playing better on the road than at home so I guess it could help. We’re about to find out.”