The Nets turned a 14-point second-quarter lead into a 110-96 loss to the Knicks on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden partly because they couldn’t control the home team’s superstars in the second half and partly because their injury problems at the point guard position finally caught up to them.
In the third quarter, the Nets led 67-58 when Carmelo Anthony scored 14 straight points to give the Knicks a 72-70 lead. Guarded in turns by Trevor Booker and Bojan Bogdanovic, Anthony ignored the hands they kept in his face and kept making shots.
“That’s why he’s one of the top two scorers in the league if not the best,” said Booker, who is considered the Nets’ best man-to-man defender. “He’s able to hit tough shots. I tipped one of the balls, but it still hit nothing but net. He’s just a great scorer.
“I think that spurt Carmelo had gave them a lot of confidence and got them going. But we were still right there. They had a one-point lead. It’s like we just fell apart.”
The Nets trailed 72-71 entering the final period, but that’s when their own offense broke down and the game got away. Sean Kilpatrick started at point guard in place of Isaiah Whitehead, who was ruled out with a concussion suffered the previous night, and he shared point guard duties with Randy Foye and rookie Yogi Ferrell, who made his Nets debut.
But the Nets shot only 38.1 percent from the field in the final quarter, committed five turnovers and trailed by as many as 20 points. “The real difference was their bench coming in, and they just took us out of our stuff,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “They got into our point guards, and we stopped moving the ball. It was a stagnant, stagnant offense.”
Asked how the offense affected the defense at the other end, Atkinson said, “It affects it a lot because they’re causing turnovers and you’re running back after missed shots. It puts a lot of pressure on your defense.”
Kristaps Porzingis led the Knicks’ fourth-quarter charge with 11 of his 21 points, and the Knicks had nine assists on 14 baskets as they got going in transition. Kilpatrick, who is the NBA’s leading scorer off the bench, admitted he still is adjusting from his normal two-guard position to handling point responsibilities in the absence of injured starter Jeremy Lin (hamstring).
“They did a great job pressuring us, and we went away from what we know,” Kilpatrick said of the Knicks’ defense. “We let them speed us up a little bit. We didn’t share the ball like we’ve been. The first half, we did a great job of sharing the ball. The next minute, we got sped up. The ball was sticking a lot more.”
Now, the Nets (3-5) head west for their next four games. Lin won’t play, and Whitehead’s return depends on the concussion protocol.
“It seems like every night it’s a different point guard, and some guys have to play out of position,” Booker said. “So it’s tough. At the same time, we have to keep the ball moving and play together.”