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Flailing Nets get gutted in Indiana

Surrender 70 points in paint en route to blowout loss

April 2, 2024 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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With their play-in tournament hopes all but dashed and coming off Sunday’s loss to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, the Brooklyn Nets just didn’t look “prepared” enough to open a home-and-home set with the Indiana Pacers Monday night.

Brooklyn yielded a whopping 43 first-quarter points, gave up 70 in the paint and trailed by as many as 36 before finally absorbing a painful 133-111 defeat to the Pacers in front of 16,522 fans at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

“It’s letting (the Pacers) getting to the rim and creating paint touches and then kicking it out and then we’re scrambling and trying to get back,” Nets interim coach Kevin Ollie lamented.

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“Give credit to them, they played their style of play. They are relentless at it.”

The Nets (29-47), who saw their magic number for postseason elimination dwindle to one, relented throughout.

Other than a brief skirmish following a flagrant foul on Brooklyn point guard Dennis Schroder and an ejection-inducing push back by Jalen Smith during the third quarter, Brooklyn hardly looked up for a fight against an Indiana squad priming for a playoff run.

Tyrese Haliburton poured in 27 points and dished out 13 assists and Smith added 17 points and 10 boards for the Pacers (43-33), who won for the third time in four games to remain one length ahead of Miami for the coveted sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.

“We did a good job pushing the pace,” Haliburton said. “We were getting stops and running. That ultimately let to shots going in. We were playing the right way.”

Nets teammates Dennis Schroder and Cam Thomas were involved in a skirmish, but couldn’t muster much of a fight during Monday’s loss to the Pacers. AP Photo by Darron Cummings

If Indiana can hold off the Heat, they’ll avoid a play-in and earn an automatic berth into a first-round series with NBA-best Boston later this month.

“We did a lot of good things offensively,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle told the Associated Press. “When we’re playing like that, fast and random, we’re tough to play against.”

Cam Thomas led the Nets in scoring for the fourth straight game with 22 points, Trendon Watford had a season-high 21 off the bench and Mikal Bridges added 19.

But Brooklyn’s hopes of a sixth consecutive postseason berth darkened with 10th-place Atlanta’s 113-101 win in Chicago Monday.

Lonnie Walker IV finished with 14 points and Day’Ron Sharpe and Nic Claxton each pulled down 11 rebounds for the Nets, who will have to win their final six games and hope the Hawks lose their last seven to earn the final play-in spot via a tiebreaker.

Brooklyn did outscore Indiana 34-25 during extended garbage time in the fourth quarter.

Perhaps that’s something the Nets can carry over into Wednesday night’s rematch at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

“We just have to have more guys getting to the rim and finishing down there,” Ollie insisted. “We’ve got to get back in transition. We have to have more sense of urgency of getting back on defense and then getting them to play in the half court.”

Trendon Watford’s season-high 21 points hardly mattered during Brooklyn’s blowout loss in Indiana Monday night. The teams will meet again at Barclays Center Wednesday. AP Photo by Darron Cummings

NOTHING BUT NET: The Nets will kick off their final homestand of the year Wednesday vs. Indiana. They will also host Detroit on Saturday, Sacramento on Sunday and play their Barclays finale next Wednesday against Toronto. … Indiana shot a blistering 58 percent in the first half Monday to open a 75-47 cushion. … The Nets were without injured guard Dennis Smith Jr. (hip) and starting forward Cam Johnson (toe) in the series opener.

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