Struggling Nets still in no-win situation
Brooklyn Falls to 0-4 After Late Meltdown Against Kidd’s Bucks
One team had to lose its zero Monday night, and unfortunately for the Brooklyn Nets, it was former head coach Jason Kidd and his previously winless Milwaukee Bucks who got it done in front of a season-low crowd of 12,576 at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
Kidd, who notoriously forced his way out of Brooklyn after leading the relocated Nets to their only playoff series win during the 2013-14 campaign, got his usual round of boos upon setting foot onto the arena’s herringbone-designed court.
But he left with a broad smile and a victory in the bank after the Nets melted down over the final 2:45 of regulation, dropping Brooklyn to an NBA-worst 0-4.
“You can see the guys are getting better, understanding the process,” noted a victorious Kidd after his team climbed to 1-3 on the young season, using a game-ending 9-0 run to put the Nets into an even deeper hole. “They’re understanding each other and it’s going to take some time.”
The same can be said of these new-look Nets, who let Deron Williams take his questionable talents to Dallas this past offseason while signing Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young to lucrative pacts in the hopes that they will be pieces to build around come next season, when Brooklyn will have more than $40 million in cap space available to lure free agents.
But for now, at least, the Nets are the only team in the league that has played at least four games without a victory, despite putting together arguably their best performance of the campaign against the Bucks.
Lopez scored a team-high 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds before foul trouble forced him to sit out most of Milwaukee’s game-winning run.
Joe Johnson had 14 points and a team-best six assists, Jarrett Jack added 15 points and Shane Larkin finished with 14 points off the bench for Brooklyn, which erased an 11-point halftime deficit only to go scoreless after Larkin’s acrobatic bank shot gave the Nets a 96-94 advantage with under three minutes left.
“It’s disappointing coming back down from 11, fighting all the way back into the game, get up by two, not to be able to execute down the stretch,” said Larkin, who committed two of the Nets’ 18 turnovers, leading to 25 points for Milwaukee.
“To put that much effort and that much fight into the game and not be able to pull it out, it’s disappointing,” he added.
The Nets, who will try yet again to get off the schneid in Atlanta on Wednesday night, also got 13 points from Young, but it was Lopez’s absence following a questionable fifth foul on Milwaukee forward Khris Middleton off a rebound with 4:44 to play that plagued them in the final moments.
“I don’t really know what they saw on that fifth one,” the 7-foot-tall center wondered aloud. “I don’t know if you guys can tell me. … I don’t want to get fined [by the league for criticizing the officials].
“You’re the media. You must have some opinion.”
Most media opinions regarding the Nets these days suggest that Brooklyn will miss out on the playoffs for the first time during the franchise’s tenure on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.
Brooklyn, which shot 45 percent from the floor, including a season-best 31 percent from 3-point range, missed its final five attempts Monday en route to its most painful defeat thus far.
“It was a hard-fought game,” said Nets head coach Lionel Hollins, the man who replaced Kidd and got Brooklyn back into the playoffs for a third consecutive season in 2014-15. “We got better in a lot of areas and we got better from the first game to the last game to now. We just have to continue to get better.”
That might not be so easy against the Southeast Division-leading Hawks (3-1), who bounced the eighth-seeded Nets from the opening-round of last season’s playoffs in six games.
But Brooklyn, perhaps bolstered by a healthier and steadier lineup, showed definitive signs of improvements in its latest loss, particularly from an effort standpoint, even if their best player was relegated to the bench during the game’s most critical minutes.
“Brook getting his fifth foul changed the dynamics of the game,” Hollins lamented. “We scratched and clawed. It was a game we could’ve had.”
Nothing But Net: Jerryd Bayless led four Milwaukee starters in double figures with 26 points, including a pair of free throws with just under 20 seconds remaining that sealed the Nets’ fate Monday night. “I told him earlier that there was a good chance he could play a lot tonight,” Kidd said of Bayless, who had increased minutes due to the absence of at least four Milwaukee rotation regulars, including the soon-to-return-to-action Jabari Parker (knee). … The Nets will visit Kidd and the Bucks in Milwaukee on Saturday after hosting the Lakers here on Friday night. … Brooklyn put up 65 points combined in the first and third quarters Monday, but managed just 31 points on 12-of-40 shooting in the second and fourth periods. “Our second and fourth quarters, we didn’t score,” said Larkin. “So, we’ve got to keep it going when they second unit comes in, and just score more points in those quarters and we’ll be fine.” For the record, Brooklyn reserves outscored Milwaukee’s backups, 29-10.
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