PORTLAND, Ore. — It was a familiar scenario. In yet another spirited effort, the Nets wiped out a 15-point second-quarter deficit before reaching halftime. But they relived their season-long recurring nightmare when they ran out of gas on defense at the end against the hot-shooting Trail Blazers in a 130-116 loss Saturday night at Moda Center.
The Nets trailed by 13 midway through the fourth quarter but cut the deficit to 121-114 on consecutive three-pointers by Jeremy Lin, the second with 2:31 left. But while they shot nearly as well as Portland (26-35), the Nets (10-51) couldn’t get the stops they needed down the stretch. The Blazers scored on 10 of their final 12 possessions.
“Yeah, it’s tough to go through, but you’ve got to commend all the guys for showing absolutely no quit,” Brook Lopez said. “We had a few rough patches throughout the game where we were right there, getting back in the game, and it was on us in those situations, not so much what they did.”
Coach Kenny Atkinson said a big part of the game plan was to guard the three-point line, and he was pleased about limiting the Trail Blazers to 25 attempts. The problem was that they made 16 of them for unreal 64.0 percent shooting from downtown. C.J. McCollum (31 points) and Al-Farouq Aminu (23) combined to hit nine of 11 three-pointers, some of them hotly contested.
“I told the coaches it seemed like we had some pretty good contests, but with those guys, there’s another level of physicality you have to have against the elite players in the NBA,” Atkinson said.
Just after Lin cut the deficit to seven points, Aminu buried a three to push the lead back to 10. Lin, who totaled 18 points and made four of seven three-pointers in 21:31, his longest stint in five games since returning from a hamstring injury, then made a pair of foul shots. But the Blazers’ Damian Lillard (19 points, 11 assists) hit an uncontested layup and, after a Nets miss, got to the line for a pair of free throws to put the game out of reach.
The Blazers, who shot 57.0 percent from the field, got 18 points from former St. John’s star Maurice Harkless and 17 points from center Jusuf Nurkic. Lopez topped the Nets with 26 points and shot 11-for-19. Sean Kilpatrick made six of seven three-point attempts in a 20-point effort, Spencer Dinwiddie added 14, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists. The Nets shot 52.3 percent from the field.
“I think we’re doing a better job and getting a better rhythm,” Atkinson said of the offense. “Obviously, Jeremy helps a lot. Just his understanding of what we’re trying to do and his experience. So that’s really helping our offense.”
Still, the Nets were handicapped by some of their same old problems, committing 11 of their 14 turnovers as the Blazers’ early lead grew to 15. “Turnovers were the story early,” Atkinson said. “Our margin of error, we can’t have periods like that.”
The good news for the Nets, who have three games remaining on their eight-game trip, is that Lin continued to progress. He still can’t take off and jump at the rim the way he’d like to but expects that to come back and feels good overall.
As for the Nets’ improved offense, Lin said, “I’m never really worried too much about our offense. Brook is figuring it out alongside of me and how the pieces fill in after that. I thought tonight we really made unselfish plays and moved the ball. We had 116 points. We’ve just got to get stops.”