The Nets should have been rested coming off a five-day break between games, but instead it appeared they rusted over the holidays. Rather than being fired up to face the crosstown rival Knicks, the Nets turned in far and away their worst offensive performance of the season in a 94-82 loss Thursday night at Barclays Center.
They fell behind the lowly Knicks by 23 points late in the third period and never got closer than 15 the rest of the way.
Spencer Dinwiddie led the Nets (16-14) with 25 points but shot 5-for-15. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot was the only other Net in double figures with 10 points.
The Nets shot 26.9% overall (21-for-78), which is an NBA worst this season, and 26.0% from three-point range (13-for-50). They were outrebounded 60-50 and outscored 36-14 in the paint.
Julius Randle led the Knicks (8-24) with 33 points, including 5-for-8 shooting from three-point range. They also got 22 points from Marcus Morris, 13 points from Elfrid Payton and 10 points and 10 rebounds from Mitchell Robinson.
The Nets made only eight two-point field goals, which is the lowest by any team since 1950, an absolutely shocking number. Although Robinson recorded only two blocked shots, he obviously altered many others in the paint.
“I thought we got a ton of good looks,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “I did think when we started missing, the ball stopped moving. But again, Mitchell Robinson’s rim defense, we shot 29 percent at the rim. We were going at him, and we just couldn’t finish on him.”
On this night, the Nets looked nothing like a playoff contender. At one point near the end of the first period, they went scoreless for 6:50, missed 11 straight shots and committed five turnovers.
Things only got worse in the third quarter as the Knicks opened with a 25-8 run to build a 71-49 lead. During that stretch, the Nets missed all six of their field-goal attempts and committed five turnovers, with all of their points coming at the foul line. They converted their first field goal of the second half when Luwawau-Cabarrot hit a corner three-pointer with 3:51 left in the third quarter.
Asked for an explanation of their errant shooting, Dinwiddie said, “Let’s go with too much eggnog. I don’t know what else to tell you . . . It’s deflating to miss that many shots, so sometimes you start pressing a little bit. It was all of us. I missed five free throws and smoked two layups. That’s nine points right there. That could be a whole game-changer.”
The starters shot a combined 11-for-49. Center Jarrett Allen is second in the NBA in dunks, but he had only two field-goal attempts, which he missed.
Asked why he wasn’t involved more in the paint, Allen said, “When I was rolling and I looked toward the rim, I had at least two defenders in front of me. I think that was the coverage to stop the roll, and I think that’s why we had a lot of three-pointers tonight.”
When those shots clanked, it had a demoralizing effect.
We shot 25%,” Allen said. “That makes playing defense harder, that makes running up and down the court harder. I think we were all searching for our shot. That’s the most political way to put it. We were all frustrated.”