Moral victories no comfort to Nets
Brooklyn Drops Another Close One as Pistons Rally Late at Barclays
Brook Lopez played like an All-Star again, even though he won’t be in Toronto the weekend after next for the NBA’s annual mid-season celebration.
The Nets battled their way to a late lead against the Detroit Pistons, but the Pistons managed to rally past them in the closing stages of regulation.
Interim head coach Tony Brown insisted his team “fought” again, even though that fight simply wasn’t enough in an eventual 105-100 loss to the Pistons Monday night in front of 13,290 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
Ultimately, the Nets are becoming all too familiar with snatching defeat from the jaws of victory these days, enduring their fourth loss in a row overall, three of which came by five points or fewer, and falling to 2-10 since Brown replaced Lionel Hollins at the helm.
Lopez, who is averaging just over 26 points and just under 10 rebounds with 2.4 blocks over his last five games, led Brooklyn with a game-high 27 points Monday night.
But the Nets went dead quiet offensively after taking a 98-95 lead on Lopez’s dunk with 2:24 remaining in regulation.
From there, Detroit’s Reggie Jackson, a player Lopez was rumored to be dealt for at last February’s trade deadline, lit the Nets up for seven points down the stretch en route to a game-ending 10-2 run for the Pistons.
Making the loss even more galling was Lopez’s apparent block of a Jackson fade-away jumper with Brooklyn down two with just under a minute to play.
In fact, Lopez actually got a piece of the off-balance shot before it went in, giving the Nets yet another reason to lament their fate as also-rans in the Eastern Conference after making the playoffs in each of their previous three seasons here in our fair borough.
“It’s tough,” Lopez admitted of Jackson’s improbable basket, which gave Detroit a 102-98 advantage with 51 ticks on the clock.
“That’s just the way it goes,” he added. “I thought we played that possession well. We were all in the right spots. We got a great contest and it went in anyways.”
There is no MV column in the standings for Moral Victories, even though the Nets would surely be playoff-bound if there was one.
The effort is there.
The commitment to playing a better brand of team ball is clear, as evidenced by the season-high 28 assists the Nets piled up Monday.
And the improved play of the reserves came to the fore against Detroit, spearheaded by Shane Larkin’s eight points and career-best 14 assists off the bench.
“Every single night you can’t expect your starters to carry you,” said Larkin who went from thriving under Hollins to struggling under Brown before a recent re-emergence. “So the bench has to come out and sometimes pick up for where the starters left off.”
Andrea Bargnani added to the “Bench Mob’s” big night with 18 points, and Wayne Ellington, starting at shooting guard, added 11 for Brooklyn (12-37), which will be back on the Barclays floor Wednesday night to take on Indiana.
“They fought,” Brown said of his second unit. “I thought the group with Shane, Thomas Robinson, Bargnani really gave us a lift with the movement, freeing up Bargnani to get some open looks. He’s as good a shooter as anyone in our league once he gets a little space.”
That space was rare around the basket for the Nets as Detroit All-Star center Andre Drummond, the league’s top rebounder, cleaned up the paint with a team-high 21 points and 18 boards.
Brooklyn was beaten off the glass, 49-39, and surrendered a whopping 19 offensive rebounds to the Pistons, who won the battle of second-chance points by a 28-7 margin.
“Drummond’s a load,” Brown confessed. “One area killed us. Second-chance points for the Pistons, they had 28 points and that was the game.”
“I didn’t do a great job with Drummond. He got some easy ones,” Lopez added.
There won’t be anything easy for the Nets this coming offseason.
They have yet to name a new general manager or permanent head coach going forward, and won’t control their first-round draft pick come June.
Between now and the summer, however, the Nets would like to begin notching some real victories.
The moral ones just don’t cut it at this level.
Nothing But Net: Jackson, who finished with 19 points and six assists Monday, was targeted by former GM Billy King last February in a deal that would have sent Lopez to Oklahoma City. But when that potential trade died on the vine, the Pistons swept in and swapped for the fifth-year point guard … Lopez did not finish in the top 15 in the All-Star voting for forwards/centers, leaving him shy of what would have been his second selection in three seasons. Lopez represented the Nets at the 2013 All-Star Game … After hosting the Pacers on Wednesday, the Nets will close out their three-game homestand Friday evening against Sacramento.
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