No one can use the rest afforded by the All-Star break more than the Nets. They allowed 35 fourth-quarter points by the Pacers, and they missed eight straight shots when they lost the lead in the final four minutes on their way to a seventh straight loss, 108-103, Wednesday night at Barclays Center. It was the Nets’ 11th loss in the past 12 games.
Kenny Atkinson faulted his team’s defense for the fourth-quarter collapse. After finishing the third quarter on a 16-2 run, the Nets had a six-point lead, but they immediately gave up a 7-0 run to the Pacers and made only one of their first six field-goal attempts.
“Couldn’t stop them,” Atkinson said. “Defense again was our Achilles’ heel. We gave up 35 points. I felt like they got too many easy baskets, too many easy looks, there were breakdowns. Until we fix our defense, it’s going to be tough to get a ‘W.’ We’ve got to look at who’s in the game. That’s disappointing to give up that many points in the fourth quarter.”
The Nets’ sense of desperation kicked in midway through the period when a 6-0 burst gave them a 91-88 lead on a dunk by Dante Cunningham with 5:52 left. The Nets still were clinging to a 95-93 lead when they suddenly went cold from the field, missing eight straight attempts as the Pacers put together an 11-2 surge for a 104-97 lead after Cory Joseph hit a pair of foul shots with 26.5 seconds left to put the game out of reach.
“We’re not finishing games,” D’Angelo Russell said, “and that comes with playing all 48 minutes and not just three quarters or forgetting to play in the last four minutes, making winning plays down the stretch. I think we’ll figure it out sooner or later and realize what we’ve got to do.”
Allen Crabbe topped the Nets (19-40) with 24 points, DeMarre Carroll added 21 and 10 rebounds, and Russell had 18 points and nine assists. All-Star Victor Oladipo led six Pacers (33-25) in double figures with 25 points, Joseph had 15 and 11 rebounds, and Myles Turner totaled 11 points and 14 rebounds.
For once, the Nets managed to avoid falling into a double-digit deficit in a hotly contested first half, which ended tied at 54 after 20 lead changes and 12 ties.
In the third quarter, Indiana threatened to break it open with a 13-2 run that included nine points from Oladipo but also was abetted by a rash of six Nets turnovers as they went down 71-63. That’s where the Nets had to make a stand, and they did, ending the period on a 16-2 run that included nine points from Carroll to help them gain a 79-73 lead. But the Nets unraveled from that point on.
Describing his message to the players as they head to the All-Star break, Atkinson said, “We’ve got to come back with obviously a bit of a chip on our shoulder. We’ve got to turn it around. We’ve got  games after the All-Star break. Let’s see if we can make a little money and play well going into that offseason. I said that last year. It’s so important, and we did that last year. We’re kind of stagnating right now.”
After all the losing, a vacation might provide the mental refreshment the Nets need right now.
“It’s time to get away from basketball,” Russell said. “You need that sometimes to come back and reflect and realize what you’re coming to do, especially with a team like us. We’re losing, and we’ve got to figure out a few things.”