Nets know they need to pick up their defensive effort

Sacramento Kings forward Jason Thompson, left, pulls a

Sacramento Kings forward Jason Thompson, left, pulls a rebound away from Nets center Brook Lopez during the first quarter. (Nov. 13, 2013) (Credit: AP)

PHOENIX - Uncomfortable laughter echoed from Brook Lopez's mouth, almost as if he were a comic book villain.

There's nothing funny about the Nets' slide and Lopez wasn't making light of the situation. The 7-footer instead was trying to find the right words, looking to carefully offer insight as to why the Nets (2-5) have been such an utter disappointment through their first seven games.

So why exactly is a team with championship aspirations winless on the road in four tries, and also not playing with a competitive spirit and energy?

"You tell me. Man," an exasperated Lopez said following an uneasy chuckle after the Nets were clobbered by the Kings, 107-86, Wednesday night. "But like I said, it starts with me and I think it trickles down. I absolutely have to fault myself."

Lopez shouldered the blame, mentioning he has to defend the high pick-and-roll better and be more assertive offensively. But there's little doubt the Nets are facing a team-wide problem.

In order for them to reverse course and snap out of a funk in which they've lost three straight and four out of their last five, Shaun Livingston said they're going to have to realize they're in everyone's crosshairs, including tonight's opponent, the Suns (5-3).

"We've got to start with effort and we've got to recognize the moment," said Livingston, who's been one of the team's few bright spots. "We've got a target on our back. It's the best this Kings team has looked all season. Why? It looks like because it's the Brooklyn Nets coming to town, you know what I mean? We need to take that personal."

Starting on the defensive end would be a good first step.

The Nets are allowing a flurry of uncontested shots and the opposition is lighting them up. They're yielding 101.1 points per game -- 106 on the road -- and teams are shooting 38.1 percent from three-point range against them.

What's worse is they're beginning to let their offensive woes dictate their defensive effort, which coach Jason Kidd called "unacceptable." Paul Pierce, who pointed to communication breakdowns as one of the Nets' biggest faults, echoed Kidd's thoughts.

"You've got to keep playing the game," Pierce said. "Offensively, shots are there some nights . . . The one thing I've been saying all along is we can control our effort and the consistency we can play on defense. And that's the one thing that bothers me the most, is the defensive end. We just allow time and time again, teams to come in the paint, dunk the ball, getting wide-open threes. There has to be a stand at some point. There has to be a sense of pride from each and every one of us."

Said Kevin Garnett, "It's very disappointing right now . . . All of us have to look ourselves in the mirror and come together and like I said, no one said this thing is going to be easy."

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