Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Nets fell behind early, came back in the fourth, but were unable to convert down the stretch — or, aka, the Brooklyn Nets story. Brooklyn never lead until the fourth quarter and their biggest lead all night was just two points. Jeff Teague scored 22 points as the Indiana Pacers topped the Nets 106-97, handing them their eleventh straight loss at home.
The Nets looked to hold serve in the season series against their old friend Thaddeus Young and the Pacers in the final meeting of the regular season. Each team was perfect at home in the first three games between the two, including the Nets’ first win of the season in their home opener. Since the first meeting on October 28th, the Pacers have won a pair at home, both quite handily, by a 118-97 score in November and a twelve-point victory just over a month ago.
Friday’s game gave fans a first look at the Nets’ young guns as bench boss Kenny Atkinson gave Caris LeVert his first NBA start, poetically against the team that previously owned his pick, with Bojan Bogdanovic resting. This decision united the trio of Isaiah Whitehead, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and LeVert with veteran guard Randy Foye and Brook Lopez as the starters.
Jeff Teague started the game strong, scoring 9 of Indiana’s first 12 as Brooklyn quickly fell into a 14-4 hole, forcing Atkinson into an early timeout. The kids checked out with four minutes left in the first quarter on the wrong side of an 18-8 score, as they were replaced by Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, and Trevor Booker. The Nets were held to just 16 first quarter points on just twenty-six percent shooting while turning the ball over six times. Jeff Teague scored a game-high nine for the Pacers, while Joe Harris led the Nets with five points off the bench and Brooklyn trailed 27-16 after one.
The Nets trimmed into the Indiana led a few times but were unable to gain much ground before the buzzer sounded to end the half. Brooklyn outscored Indiana 30-29 in the frame to head into the break down 56-46 — the Pacers led by as many as 14, while Brooklyn never held a lead in the half. The Nets bench carried the bulk of the weight in the scoring department in the half, outscoring the Pacers’ bench 27-15 and the Nets’ starters 27-19 all thanks to Harris’ explosive outing.
Whitehead was crushed by a Paul George screen early in the third quarter and had his upper body checked on, ultimately leaving the game for the remainder of the night.
The Pacers kicked off a 11-0 run early in the third quarter that was fueled by Jeff Teague scoring 7 of the 9 to take a 67-48 lead, with the 19-point deficit being the biggest of the night. The Nets responded with a 9-2 run of their own where all 9 points came from the free-throw line to trim it to single digits. Then, my friends, the fun started.
The Nets finished the third quarter on a 21-9 run after a couple of crucial Harris three-pointers and trailed by just 6 points heading into the final frame. Harris, through three quarters, scored 15 off the bench and hit 3 of his 4 attempts from deep.
The Nets caught fire from three-point land to start the fourth and quickly cut the deficit to just one on a Quincy Acy corner bomb. Then, for good measure, Acy drilled a triple from the top of the arc to give the Nets their first lead of the night at 85-83.
But, unfortunately, it was short-lived.
Once again, the Nets fell behind early, went on a run early in the fourth to take the lead, but were unable to finish down the stretch. The Nets only lead on two different occasions and their largest lead was just two — so back to the drawing board again. The first testing of the young guns experiment did not go according to plan, as LeVert struggled from the field and Whitehead left the game early.
The Nets will seek to end their losing streak and pick up their tenth win of the season Sunday against the Toronto Raptors.
The stats: 4 PTS, 1-9 FG, 5 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 0 BLK, 1 TOV
The first half of LeVert’s first NBA start was not too kind to him, so let’s list this one out. First off, he was matched up with one of the strongest two-way small forwards in the league in Paul George. He managed just one rebound and shot 0-4 in thirteen first half minutes.
Ultimately, LeVert missed his first seven shots but still grabbed five rebounds and held George to just 19 points. Also, he finished at a team worst -25 — but, hey, you win some, you lose some.
The stats: 23 PTS, 9/18 FG, 6 REB, 1 AST, 0 STL, 1 BLK, 3 TOV
Brook Lopez lead the Nets in scoring (and rebounding!) in the first half with 12 points and 6 boards in 16 minutes of work. Coming in, he averaged five rebounds per full game, but, somehow, did not pull down a single rebound in the second half. Lopez shot the ball well at 50% and led the team in points with his 23.
The stats: 15 PTS, 5/10 FG, 2 REB, 0 AST, 3 STL, 0 BLK, 2 TOV
Joe Harris continues to come off the bench and the Nets have looked to him for production while the starters rest. Tonight, he led the Nets in scoring for much of the first half. He hit four his eight shots against the Pacers, including a pair from downtown in the first half. Harris led a couple of runs that brought Brooklyn back into striking distance too — not bad for just returning from injury!
Harris lead the bench in scoring with 15 points on 50% shooting — so the Nets needed a strong performance from Harris with Bojan Bogdanovic resting and they got one.