The Nets vowed to learn from Thursday’s loss to the Heat, a game in which they ended the first half by missing seven consecutive shots. The lesson? Finish better.
It was advice that went unheeded Sunday. The Nets repeated the same problem against the 76ers during their 121-99 loss as they limped into halftime on the wrong end of a 20-5 run.
Tyrese Maxey silenced the Barclays Center crowd with a three-pointer just before the buzzer. The damage was done as the Nets trailed 61-49.
During that stretch, the Nets (6-7) gave up a 15-0 run before Day’Ron Sharpe dunked with 35.8 seconds left in the second quarter. It was similar to the 14-0 run they coughed up in Miami to finish the first half.
The momentum stayed with the 76ers (10-3) as they pushed the lead to 27 points in the second half. The Nets’ home winning streak ended at three games with their largest loss of the season and a season low in scoring.
“We’re still not there,” coach Jacque Vaughn said about closing halves well. “That’s definitely a work-in-progress for us to understand teams are doing different things at the end of the quarter to disrupt you. So you have to have a poise about yourself.”
The Nets didn’t help themselves with 15 turnovers, 10 in the second half. They scored only 22 points in the third quarter and fell to 2-6 against teams with winning records.
But that second-quarter lapse was the biggest factor after Mikal Bridges gave the Nets a 44-41 lead with 4:05 left. The Nets missed seven straight shots until Sharpe’s dunk.
“It seems to be a thing. They made a run at the end of the second and just coming into the third, we didn’t have that pop,” Nic Claxton said. “It’s hard getting down against good teams that have a consistent scoring punch.’’
Vaughn said the plan was to let other players score and try to limit Maxey and Joel Embiid. It didn’t work.
Embiid had 32 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. Maxey shot 2-for-8 to start the game but finished with 25 points and 10 assists. De’Anthony Melton had 15 of his 21 points in the first half.
The Nets also missed one of their top defenders in Dennis Smith Jr., who was out with a sprained back.
Maxey’s shot before halftime got him going and he made four of his six three-pointers in the second half.
“Maxey in the third quarter had about three threes going left, where he was just coming off the screen and wasn’t feeling nobody,” Lonnie Walker IV said. “If he made two threes in a row, maybe we give them a little push or something like that. Let him know that we’re here rather than let him coming off so freely.”
Vaughn also mentioned the lack of physicality. The Nets wilted after their first-half collapse and it wasted Walker’s season-high 26 points — his NBA-best fourth game off the bench with at least 20 points.
Bridges had 18 points but took only one shot in the second half because of the 76ers’ zone defense. Claxton had 10 points and nine rebounds.
It added up to a course in learning to finish games. The Nets have won several close games this season, but on Sunday they again were reminded what can happen when great teams keep punching while ahead.
“We just relaxed a little bit, and with a team like this, you can’t,” Bridges said. “Just relaxed and not staying locked in at all times, knowing that this is the NBA and a four-point lead, if you’re down four, down two, you can flip to 12 quick. Just attention to detail for the whole game.”