In the previous four days, the Nets gained a new training facility, a new general manager, a big win over the Knicks and a sense that the future doesn’t have to be so bleak.
On the fifth day, they were reminded that the future isn’t here yet.
The Nets’ recent spate of unlikely success came to an end Sunday night as they came close to erasing a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit but lost to the Charlotte Hornets, 104-96, at Barclays Center.
Despite allowing 21 points on 14 turnovers in the game and folding against Kemba Walker and the Hornets’ pick-and-roll for the better part of three quarters, the Nets cut an 88-73 deficit to 95-91 on Brook Lopez’s alley-oop basket with 4:22 left.
But the Hornets (29-26) responded immediately: Walker hit a layup 20 seconds later and Jeremy Lin collected a bad pass from Shane Larkin. The Nets didn’t score again until Wayne Ellington’s layup with 44 seconds left.
“It wasn’t consistent,” interim coach Tony Brown said. “We had a pretty mobile group out there, especially some of the guys coming off the bench that we tried to apply some pressure on some of the ballhandlers and the pick-and-rolls. That got us back in the ballgame the second half, but offensively we were not really in sync tonight.”
Walker had 28 points, shooting 4-for-10 from three-point range. Al Jefferson had 18 points, Nicolas Batum 16 and Lin 11. Marvin Williams added nine points and 12 rebounds.
Joe Johnson led the Nets with 17 points and Lopez added 16 points, 10 rebounds and a season-high six assists.
The Nets outscored the Hornets 52-32 in the paint but the Hornets shot 10-for-27 from three-point range and led by as many as 16 in the third quarter. The Nets shot 5-for-22 from three-point range and 43 percent overall.
“Their pressure made it tough for us to get into some of our sets,” Brown said. “Any time we face some solid defense where they pressure passes, where they pressure to win catches, pressure to post up, catch, we seem to get a little sluggish.”
The Nets entered the game with three victories in their last five games but dropped to 15-41 on the eve of a nine-game road trip.
“We got some good looks,” Lopez said. “We turned the ball over a bit much. I thought I wasn’t good at our pick-and- roll defense on our weak side. I wasn’t thorough all the time. When we lose games, I think those have definitely been two key factors.”
It was tied at 26 in the waning seconds of the first quarter before Batum sank a three- pointer to ignite a 9-0 Hornets run. The Hornets led the entire way after that despite a highlight-worthy moment for the Nets in the third quarter: Lopez hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer from well beyond the arc, only the second trey (in 25 attempts) of his eight-year NBA career.
“I thought we had some stretches where we played great basketball, but we had stretches where . . . we didn’t play so great,” Johnson said. “Our defense hasn’t been great. It wasn’t great tonight, so it’s tough to win like that. We’ve got to get back to helping one another.”