Steamed and bothered, Joe Johnson made a slight detour as he sauntered toward the tunnel leading to the bowels of Madison Square Garden, making a path in the direction of the trio of referees gathered near midcourt.
Never one to show much emotion, particularly such public annoyance, Johnson pointed at referee Kane Fitzgerald while mumbling a few choice words, displeased with the lack of a foul call just before the end of the first half. Fitzgerald apparently had enough of the back talk, slapping Johnson with just the 14th technical foul of his 12-year career.
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Jason Kidd, who was called for a technical foul of his own earlier in the second quarter, was equally perturbed by the way things were being officiated in their 110-81 loss to the Knicks that he also briefly got into it with Fitzgerald & Co.
The Nets uncharacteristically lost their cool and were taken totally out of their game by the Knicks. They were thoroughly outplayed and, at times, probably a little embarrassed. They looked nothing like the team that came in boasting the best record in the Eastern Conference since Jan. 1 and one that had clinched a postseason berth a night earlier on the strength of their 14th straight home win.
"It was very frustrating because maybe how we got blown out," Joe Johnson said. " . . . I don't know. For whatever reason, we had a few guys fighting and a few guys who weren't fighting. If we are not all on the same page, then you have a lopsided score like you have tonight."
In falling into a cavernous 25-point halftime deficit, the Nets allowed their crosstown rivals to shoot a blistering 66.7 percent from the floor and pound them on the glass 20-12. They let J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. get hot from the perimeter and their combined 9-for-14 showing in the first half -- paired with a few flamboyant celebrations -- surely had the Nets a bit bothered.
"Tough loss," Paul Pierce said. "Just more disappointed with the way we defended today. We didn't defend at a high level like we have been over the last month, so right now it's about us getting better whether we win or lose. Tonight we really didn't get better.
"I don't know if it's one of those nights, I don't know if it's a back-to-back [thing], but at the end of the first quarter and throughout the second quarter, we just didn't defend. And you allow a team to shoot close to 70 percent towards the half, you are not going to win many games."As good as they've played in 2014 the Nets still need some serious improvement on that side of the ball. They've yielded no fewer than 95 points in their last 12 games, an aspect of their scheme that's sprung more than a few leaks without the services of Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko -- a pair of their defensive cogs who could return at any point within the next few games.
General manager Billy King said on the radio yesterdayWednesday that Garnett could play either tomorrowFriday against the Pistons or Saturday versus the 76ers.
"They meant a lot to our team on both ends of the floor, but we can't use that as an excuse," Deron Williams said. "Just because they are not here doesn't mean we can allow a team to shoot 60 percent on us and get whatever they want. We have to show a little more fight and a little more defensive effort."