PHOENIX -- It all disappeared like a cruel desert mirage. The crisp ball movement. Excellent perimeter defense. Just overall great play all gone, painfully vanishing.
Isolation-heavy offense re-emerged. Shots stopped falling. The home crowd got juiced. The Nets' happy facial expressions were replaced by looks of bewilderment, anguish and disgust.
So much for Joe Johnson's comments about his teammates' selfish play and not having each other's back potentially sparking the Nets to what would've been a spirited victory. Done in by a poor second half and unable to stop the Suns' surge, the Nets blew a 14-point halftime lead and lost to the Suns, 112-104, at US Airways Center Wednesday night.
"First half, our defense was great, offensively we were moving the ball," Deron Williams said. "We scored 63 points. Second half, we knew they were going to make a run and we just really didn't have an answer when they did. We got stagnant a little bit, definitely turned the ball over, myself included. Talking to Jarrett [Jack] after the game, we had 10 turnovers between us.
"We've just got to figure out how to close out games. This should have been a winnable ballgame for us."
For as good as they looked in the first half, the Nets (4-3) were equally hideous at the outset of the second half, allowing their double-digit advantage to evaporate like a precious droplet of water on a typical day in this desert heat. Brook Lopez scored 16 points but struggled after halftime, missing all six shots, and the Nets opened things up going 2-for-12 with four turnovers.
Phoenix (5-3) took control behind an 18-4 run to square it at 67, grabbing the lead for good when consecutive baskets by Isaiah Thomas vaulted the Suns to a 97-94 lead with 4:28 remaining.
"The first half was great on both ends -- offensively, defensively," said Johnson, who led the Nets with 21 points. "We were there for one another, we were there in the passing lanes helping each other out. And in the second half, it was like we got into rut and Isaiah Thomas hurt us with the pick-and-roll. We obviously couldn't get stops"
" . . . We just couldn't come up with the big play and to blow such a big lead, that's a hard pill to swallow."
Nets coach Lionel Hollins didn't think the ball movement was as free flowing in the second half as it was early on, noting there were times when they "started trying to win the game by ourselves, keep us ahead by ourselves and bad things happened." The Nets lsot their composure when Phoenix cranked up its intensity and they know it.
"To be honest, I think as they added pressure, I think we started to -- not panic -- but we started to go to our individual versus set screens, run a little harder, run through things," Kevin Garnett said. "I think we gave ourselves a chance to win at the end, but there was no way we should've let this game be as close as it was. We have to be better for 48 minutes."