Joe Johnson #7 of the Brooklyn Nets looks on late...

Joe Johnson #7 of the Brooklyn Nets looks on late in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Barclays Center on Friday, Nov. 28, 2015 in Brooklyn, New York. Credit: Jim McIsaac

They couldn't sugarcoat things this time, explaining away an embarrassing performance with a bunch of excuses and assuring everyone that they are making considerable progress despite the losses piling up.

The Lakers were winless, devoid of talent and making people wonder if a struggling Kobe Bryant is done. But the Nets made them look like a juggernaut at times, unbelievably powerless to do anything to keep Los Angeles in check.

Even when they had one last gasp to make something happen, with the potential to hoist a tying three-pointer in the waning seconds, the Nets couldn't inbound the ball and were called for a five-second violation. In a season already ripe with disappointment, the Nets' 104-98 loss Friday night -- in front of a Barclays Center sellout crowd of 17,732 that kept erupting wildly for the Lakers -- was as maddening as it gets.

"It's frustrating," Jarrett Jack said. "We started off the game great, were able to jump out to a nine-, 11-point lead, and you are hoping to be able to capitalize on that. And we allowed them back in the game, didn't take care of the basketball that well in the first half. And in turn it allowed them to get some momentum."

Unable to make any big plays down the stretch or dig in well enough defensively to get stops in crunch time, the Nets (0-6) had only themselves to blame. They shot 7-for-18 overall and were 2-for-8 from beyond the three-point arc in the fourth quarter, throwing the ball away on four occasions.

"It's tough," Joe Johnson said. "Knowing the records of both teams and us being at home, I felt like we had a great chance to win. But we came up short."

Particularly on that failed inbounds attempt. With the Nets trailing 98-95 and given a new breath of life after Jack knocked the ball off Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young took too long trying to get the ball in and was whistled for the violation with 24.2 seconds left. Bryant hit two free throws with 23.9 seconds remaining to seal it. The Nets had a 20-second timeout available and never called it.

Johnson was the main option in the corner, but Young suggested the play was doomed because of the ball's location closer to midcourt.

"When we actually initially drew the play up, it was supposed to be a little deeper kind of like towards more of an angle with the free-throw line as opposed to being at halfcourt," Young said. "But they spotted the ball at a different place than we wanted and the pass was a little longer . . . So I felt like if I lobbed the pass over, we wasn't going to get the shot."

When Bryant, who led the Lakers (1-4) with 18 points, hit the two free throws, it felt as if the arena the Nets' billion-dollar digs patterned its theater stage-like setting after -- the Staples Center -- had been transported east. Bryant said of the reaction: "It's an uncomfortable hug."

And another slap in the face to a team and franchise still searching for an identity.

"When Cleveland came to town and Miami comes to town, they root for them," said Nets coach Lionel Hollins, who tried to shake things up by inserting rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson into the starting lineup. "We have to step up and become the Brooklyn Nets by our playing performance to make them want to cheer for us."

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