Struggling Nets nose-diving into halftime
Two-game slide result of poor finishes before intermission
While the Nets have been shorthanded due to injury during the season’s first month, Brooklyn head coach Jacque Vaughn is more interested in how short they’ve been coming up before halftime.
Especially in their last two losses.
“Teams are doing different things to us at the end of quarters to disrupt (us), so you have to have a poise about you,” Vaughn admitted Sunday after Philadelphia went on a 23-7 run before intermission en route to a 121-99 win over the Nets in front of 17,934 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
“We’re still searching for that,” Vaughn added. “We’ll continue to work on that and get better, but you see how those momentum plays make a difference, especially at the end of quarters.”
The 76ers put together a 15-0 spurt in just over three minutes during the second quarter to blow past Brooklyn (6-7) for good.
It was the same story in Miami last Thursday night, when the Nets were seeking their season high-tying third consecutive win.
Up by six points against the NBA’s hottest team, Brooklyn went into the tank just before the break, watching the sizzling Heat pull away for good with a 14-0 run into halftime.
“There’s momentum, I think, shifts that happen throughout the course of the game,” Vaughn noted after watching Miami breeze to its seventh straight win. “You don’t want those at the end of the quarter, especially going into halftime.”
The Nets also don’t want to continue playing shorthanded.
On Sunday, starters Cam Thomas (ankle) and Ben Simmons (back) and reserve guard Dennis Smith Jr. (back) were missing in action as Brooklyn had to rely on Lonnie Walker IV’s season-high 26 points just to remain within striking distance of the Sixers.
Mikal Bridges and Nic Claxton combined to go 13-of-18 from the field for 28 points, but the rest of the Nets’ starters — Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith and Cam Johnson — only managed to hit 8-of-29 attempts, including 3-of-12 from 3-point range.
Brooklyn was outscored by a whopping 71-49 count over the second and third quarters, leaving it very little chance to reel Philadelphia back in.
The Nets also committed 15 turnovers while forcing only four.
“Early in the game we probably took too many mid-range shots just because (reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid was) at the rim,” Vaughn told the Associated Press.
“That’s where the premium comes with us getting out in transition, when we were able to get them cross-matched, you get opportunities.”
The Nets would like to have an opportunity to hit the hardwood at full strength at some point this year.
Smith’s absence Sunday came after he felt lower-back soreness during practice. He could get back in the mix as soon as Wednesday night in Atlanta.
Thomas, the Nets’ leading scorer at 26.9 points per game, has been out since Nov. 8 with an ankle injury.
Simmons, who was pacing Brooklyn with 10.8 boards per contest, hasn’t played since Nov. 6 vs. Milwaukee.
Thomas and Simmons will be reevaluated this week, but Vaughn only addressed Thomas’ situation prior to Sunday’s loss to the Sixers.
“We’ll give you a more detailed update this week,” he said. “But just going through the process of getting back on the floor.
“So whether that’s doing the rehab behind the scenes, trying to stay in some semblance of shape. So that once he is back in the fold that it’s not too much of a ground that he’s got to make up but it’s tough to stay in shape when you’re dealing with, you know, lower extremities. For sure.”
The Nets will try to avoid another pre-halftime collapse and their first three-game losing streak of the season vs. the Hawks.
NOTHING BUT NET: Brooklyn had a three-game home winning streak snapped Sunday. The Nets have also lost nine in a row to the Sixers, including five straight at Barclays Center. Philadelphia swept the team’s first-round playoff series last season. … Walker is emerging as an NBA Sixth Man of the Year candidate, averaging 16.6 points per contest off the bench. He has led the Nets in scoring in three of their last six games. … After visiting Atlanta on Wednesday, the Nets will kick off a five-game homestand Saturday vs. Miami.
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