The result seemed as inevitable as the ticking clock. Forget the Nets’ lead late in the fourth quarter and the solid contributions from Joe Harris and Sean Kilpatrick. Time passed, the Pelicans predictably chipped away and then, on the power of a game-ending 13-1 run, they blew up any chance the Nets had.
It was the same sad tale Thursday night at Barclays Center as the Nets fell to the Pelicans, 104-95. The lead disappeared, systems failed, turnovers piled up and plays fell apart.
And, in what has been a season of indignities, the second half continued to be particularly cruel — so much so that even when the Nets entered the fourth quarter with a six-point lead, the conclusion was hardly a surprise: another breakdown, an eighth straight loss.
The Pelicans’ Tyreke Evans scored 14 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter as the same difficulties that usually plague the Nets in the third quarter appeared later in the game. Brook Lopez’s layup with 3:35 remaining gave the Nets a 94-91 lead, but the Pelicans scored the next 11 to put it away. The Nets were outscored 31-16 in the fourth quarter.
“It’s the same story, really,” Lopez said. “We turned the ball over . . . We’ve got to do a better job of taking care of it . . . We need to cherish the ball more. We have to get better at getting to the third quarter raring to go and closing it out.”
With the Nets up by three points, the Pelicans took control. Terrence Jones (24 points, 12 rebounds) put them ahead to stay with a turnaround bank shot that made it 95-94.
Kilpatrick turned the ball over on the Nets’ ensuing possession and a layup by Evans gave the Pelicans a three-point lead with 2:15 left.
After Caris LeVert missed a three-pointer that would have tied the score, the Pelicans took a five-point lead on Jones’ dunk, and the Nets never got close again.
The Pelicans were 17-for-25 from the line (compared with the Nets’ 6-for-11), giving them a little of the edge they lost when star center Anthony Davis (hip) was declared inactive shortly before tipoff.
Lopez led the Nets with 20 points and six rebounds and Kilpatrick scored 18 off the bench. Isaiah Whitehead left in the third quarter with a sprained left knee and did not return, though coach Kenny Atkinson said he was available in the fourth quarter.
“They turned up the pressure and we need to do a better job there,” he said. “We really struggled to score the ball . . . It’s not easy when you get outscored [like that] in the fourth.”
It’s all part of a larger pattern.
The Nets have been mired in an offensive drought in which they have lost 13 of their last 14. They’ve scored fewer than 100 points in seven of those losses and have lost by double digits in seven.
“It’s a mix of us not executing offensively and them making some big-time plays,” said Harris, who scored 15 points. “We didn’t respond to them very well when they were making big-time plays.”
A different narrative, but the same old story.