Once again, the Nets disrespected the game by looking past a losing foe.
And once again, they got served a huge slice of humble pie, this time a 122-111 defeat in Detroit against the worst team in basketball.
This time the Nets spotted the last-place Pistons a 20-point lead in the second quarter, cut it to two in the third before capitulating in the fourth.
“My message was personal pride, connectivity and coming together. Just resistance. We can’t start the game down 10, be down 20 in the second half expecting it to come easy,” coach Steve Nash said.
“You’ve got to want to fight with your teammates, make it extremely hard on the other team, make them miserable. We didn’t do that. … We’ve got a lot to clean up. Number one is that attitude and that competition level and that connectivity. Those are things you can’t draw up, you can’t practice. You just have to bring it, and I didn’t feel that for 48 minutes.”
Kyrie Irving — back from his one-game absence and playing with tape on his injured right index finger — finished with 27 points, but shot just 12 of 28 and 2 of 9 from deep. James Harden added 24 points and 12 assists, but had seven turnovers.
The Nets (14-12) dropped their season-worst third straight, and continued to play down to the competition. They’re an NBA-best 7-1 versus teams .500 or over, but fell to 7-11 against losing squads.
“I don’t accept that, I don’t think our team accepts it,” Irving said. “We don’t want that to be what teams think about us. We’re seeing it day-in and day-out where teams are coming in and punching us in the mouth early, and we’re playing catch-up; and it happens to be against the guys with the [worst] records. We’ve got to call it what it is and we’ve got to fix that. That takes a maturity, that takes accountability and that takes a realization on what we need to do moving forward.
“We look very average. We have the talent that the eye test [shows] we should be dominating. … We have to turn that corner. We haven’t done it yet, but we will. And I’m telling you the league’s going to be on notice when that happens.”
If one looked in the dictionary — OK, fine, Googled — for a trap game, the Pistons (6-18) would have been the definition.
But facing the league’s worst-shooting team, the Nets let the Pistons hit a season-high 55.4 percent. Jerami Grant had 32 points and Delon Wright added 22.
After Joe Harris opened the night with a 3, the Nets allowed a 13-0 run and fell behind by 10 on Grant’s cutting dunk. They never retook the lead.
Brooklyn finished the first quarter down 38-26, in abysmal defensive disarray. Irving got targeted on switches, Nets either got beat off the dribble or sucked over to help when their teammates did, leaving their men open for dunks and layups.
The Nets surrendered an 8-0 run, falling behind 49-29 on Isaiah Stewart’s 3-pointer with 9:14 remaining in the half. And nobody was more culpable than DeAndre Jordan, beaten several times. Harden had multiple animated first-half talks with him, as did Nash.
“Defensively we have some lapses. We’ve gotta be better. I mean, [crap], I’ve gotta be better for us, defensively,” Jordan admitted. “We all have to be better, but I just take a little bit more ownership on that end because that’s a thing that I love and a big part of why I’m out there for us. We’ve gotta be better, but I take a lot of that.”
Jeff Green’s driving dunk made it 63-54 at the break. With Bruce Brown replacing him to start the half, the Nets mounted a 7-0 run to get it to 74-70.
Irving’s 3 cut the deficit to 79-77 with five minutes left in the third. But the Nets allowed a 7-0 run to see the lead bloat back to 101-89 with 8:54 to play.
“It just falls back on us and letting us know you can’t BS the game like we did early on,” Jordan said. “Hopefully we learn from this skid that we’re on right now and respond.”