This was their chance to end it with some good vibes.
Considering Portland was without leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge (illness) and Nicolas Batum (knee injury), of the three games on the Nets' western swing, this matchup with the short-handed Trail Blazers represented their best opportunity to pull one out and thus finish things on a positive note.
But they trailed by double digits for most of the evening, unable to cut the deficit to fewer than eight points until late in the fourth quarter.
So instead, a week that began with Joe Johnson's biting comments -- he said the Nets were playing selfishly at times and didn't have each other's backs enough -- concluded with a dud in the Pacific Northwest.
The Nets couldn't muster enough offense and their defense wasn't up to par again in a 97-87 loss at the Moda Center, sending the Nets home winless on the three-game swing.
"This is a sorry way to end the road trip," Deron Williams said. "We thought we would get a couple of these; instead we walk away with none. So it's definitely tough, especially with those guys being out. But they had guys that stepped up and played great. [Damian] Lillard played great. We didn't. We started off bad. We didn't hit any threes. Our defense at times was bad. We knew coming in that they hit the glass hard. That's one of their strengths and we didn't keep them off."
Certainly Brook Lopez didn't. Playing against twin brother Robin, the Nets' big man scored a season-high 21 points but had only four rebounds.
For the third time in the last four games, he didn't get much court time in the fourth quarter. Nets coach Lionel Hollins said he wanted to put Mirza Teletovic in during the fourth to take advantage of Myers Leonard, who started in Aldridge's place.
Lopez acknowledged he still isn't playing up to his standards. "I need to be more aggressive and have more of an effort," he said. "I feel slow out there, kind of in the mud. I need to keep working and getting back to moving more."
Joe Johnson added 20 points and Williams had 19 for the Nets (4-5), who had only 15 assists, a number Williams said is too low.
Lillard paced Portland (7-3) with 28 points and a season-high 10 assists. Robin Lopez had 10 points.
Down seven with just over a minute remaining and with the chance to steal one despite their ragged play, the Nets misfired on five consecutive shots. A stretch of more than three minutes in which they couldn't buy a basket ultimately cost them, dampening any optimism that might've crept in after Teletovic's driving layup with 3:30 left trimmed the Nets' deficit to 88-82.
One of the Nets' biggest problems this season reared its ugly head again: an inability to rebound. Lillard missed a three-pointer, but Leonard got the offensive board and the ball was swung to Wesley Matthews. He buried a three-pointer with 2:43 left to give the Blazers a 91-82 lead.
"It's something that we've got to obviously address, make it a primary," Kevin Garnett said of the Nets' rebounding woes. "There's some things we've obviously got to work on in practice."
Said Williams, "This is Game 9. We are still together. Nobody is pointing fingers, like I said before. We've just got to get better, get better on both ends of the floor."