Nets lose to Pacers; skid at 8
INDIANAPOLIS — By the end, both sides were going on fumes. The Nets, shorthanded all year, were playing another back-to-back scenario, the second leg of a brutal five games in six nights segment. The Pacers were finishing their three games in three nights sentence handed down by the court of NBA scheduling.
The Nets broke on top early and maybe, just maybe, they had finally found a team more tired, more fatigued, more battered.
Nope. A losing streak did end. But it wasn’t the one forged by the Nets. Again, they failed to close down the stretch. Again, there was disappointment, frustration as the Nets losing streak reached eight games with the Danny Granger-inspired 93-88 victory by the Pacers who ended their own five-game skid here.
But the difference afterward was that maybe the Nets can see hope on the horizon. That hope is kind of hard to miss: it stands 7-feet in the form of Brook Lopez.
“It’s been a tough year. It’s been the toughest year of my career,” said Deron Williams a 29-point scorer against the defensive length of the Pacers who denied the Nets (8-23) when it mattered. “Hopefully, we’ll turn things around. Hopefully we’ll have Brook coming back soon. We’ve got to get MarShon [Brooks] going a little bit. He’s a little rusty and that’ll come. We’ve just got to win, really. Once you get a win, it just kind of takes that pressure off.”
Lopez, who has not played all season because of a broken right foot, said he feels he is not that far away. In fact, if it were his call, last night would have been “another” game for him.
“I feel like I could play,” said Lopez, who would have been huge help last night against 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert (13 points, 11 rebounds). “I do feel like that. I felt good in practice. I did everything in practice. I feel like I’m in shape. … I feel like, I’ve been sitting out the whole season, storing it in a tank, I’m ready to go. I feel like I’ve got the energy to get through it. The adrenaline, hopefully, would help me.”
It couldn’t have hurt last night. The Nets, who had Jordan Farmar back from a one-game groin strain absence, came out looking to get Kris Humphries (24 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks) started early and it worked well. The Nets, who also are missing Shawne Williams (shoulder, foot, leg and is out indefinitely), hit 13 of 18 shots in the first quarter and led by eight at the end of the frame. Darn, these games go four quarters.
“This is tough,” Humphries said. “It’s not fun losing,”
All of the fun vanished in the end game when Granger (32 points), who had been questionable with a sprained ankle that kept him out Wednesday, continued erasing any doubt about his capability, and he supported one claim by coach Avery Johnson.
“In this league, you’ve got to have threes that can score and defend and that are long,” Johnson said while also lamenting turnovers (20 for a second straight night) and Indianapolis’ offensive rebounds (16). “As much as people talk about the center position and the point guard position … right now, the league is about having that big, strong three-man, and Granger is a handful.”
Granger put Indianapolis up, 88-79, at 1:59 but the Nets refused to fold and with Williams and Humphries leading, fought back to within 89-86 with 25.6 seconds left. But then Granger and Paul George (whose 6-10 frame on Williams was critical) hit two free throws apiece and Net heroics in the closing seconds fell short. Again.
“It’s not as disappointing as [Wednesday vs. Memphis],” said Brooks (14 points, four turnovers). “We’ve got a lot of people who’ve been out, still getting in the swing of things. I think we’ll be fine getting everybody healthy.”