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Nets get ‘Blazed’ in Portland

Look to bounce back in Denver after blowout loss

February 27, 2014 by John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Paul Pierce wasn’t the least bit willing to shrug off Wednesday night’s debacle in Portland as a residue of the Nets’ grueling seven-game Circus road trip.

“We lose like this, it’s just a complete lack of focus,” said the future Hall of Famer after Brooklyn was scorched by the Blazers, 124-80, in front of 20,015 fans at Portland’s Moda Center.

“No way should we lose by 40 with the guys we’ve got,” added Pierce, who joined his fellow starters on the bench for most of the second half after the contest – if you can call it that – got out of hand.

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Pierce, who acknowledged before the All-Star break that the Nets’ longest road trip of the season would be critical to their playoff positioning, certainly wasn’t expecting Brooklyn to suffer the third-worst margin of defeat in franchise history and its lowest point total of the season.

Neither was head coach Jason Kidd, who echoed Pierce’s sentiments regarding the Nets’ effort following a two-day break.

“Our energy was not there,” he admitted after Brooklyn fell to 2-3 on the ongoing road odyssey. ”On the offensive end, we missed shots and we kind of felt sorry for ourselves, which carried over to the defensive end, and we didn’t make stops.”

The numbers were even more unseemly than the post-game remarks as the Nets hit just 32-of-81 shots, were beaten badly on the boards, 53-39, and never came close to taking advantage of the absence of Portland’s All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who missed the game with a strained left groin.

“That was an ugly night,” noted Shaun Livingston, who returned to the lineup after missing Sunday night’s 108-102 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center.

With the loss, Brooklyn (26-29) fell five games behind first-place Toronto in the Atlantic Division and dropped just behind Charlotte into seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings.

Making matters worse, the Nets will now return to Brooklyn next Monday, following Thursday night’s stop in Denver and Saturday’s game in Milwaukee, below the .500 mark, even with a pair of victories to close the trip.

“We could have played against the Eastern Conference All-Stars, we shouldn’t lose by 40,” Pierce insisted. “We just didn’t show up tonight.”

Jason Collins, who made history Sunday in L.A. by becoming the first openly gay player to participate in an NBA game, logged seven uneventful minutes during fourth-quarter garbage time.

Deron Williams led Brooklyn with 12 points and All-Star Joe Johnson added 11 for the Nets, who were looking to improve on a brutal 3-10 record in the second half of back-to-back games in Denver, where they haven’t won in their last six visits.

“Again on a long road trip you may have a game like this,” Kidd said. “You don’t want to, but it happens and so we’ve got to put this one behind us and get ready for Denver.”

Nothing But Net: The last time the Nets won in Denver was on Jan. 27, 2007, when Kidd was New Jersey’s point guard. … The Nuggets also beat the Nets in Brooklyn, 111-87, on Dec. 3 during Brooklyn’s 10-21 start to the campaign. … According to the Associated Press, Collins was expected to meet the family of Matthew Shepard in Denver. Shepard was tortured and murdered in Wyoming in 1998 for being gay and Collins has worn a No. 98 jersey in his honor. ”Obviously, it’s extremely special and I’m very much looking forward to meeting them,” said Collins, who may see more playing time against the Nuggets if Kidd continues to sit Kevin Garnett in the back half of games on consecutive nights. … The Nets went 5-3 on last year’s Circus trip. They can finish no better than 4-3 on this year’s journey through three time zones.

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