INDIANAPOLIS — It sounds good when they say it.
This is part of the Nets’ evolution, part of the process of getting them to be the team they’re meant to be. When Kenny Atkinson is forced to play Yogi Ferrell and Isaiah Whitehead as part of a “point guard by committee,” it just means both of them are learning at the highest level.
It all sounds good, but these days, it looks really, really bad. And it can’t feel too good, either.
Everything went wrong in the Nets’ sixth straight loss — a 118-97 rout Friday night at the hands of the Pacers, who played without Paul George (sore back). The transition defense was non-existent, which has been a glaring problem throughout this stretch. Forget about rebounding, or even scoring, for that matter. They couldn’t stop one run, then the next, and then the next.
“It’s disappointing, obviously,” Atkinson said. “We don’t love [repeating the same mistakes]. It’s recurring . . . I thought the first nine games, we did a decent job. None of us are happy.”
It was among the most brutal of the Nets’ losses this season. They fell behind by 31 in the third quarter, punctuated by Monta Ellis’ steal at midcourt and subsequent dunk, good for the 84-53 lead.
The Pacers had six players score in double digits, shot 55.2 percent from the field and outrebounded the Nets 47-38. Glenn Robinson scored 20 points and Jeff Teague had nine points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
Brook Lopez led the Nets (4-11) with 20 points. They allowed 27 points on 20 turnovers.
“I think it just came down to competitiveness,” Lopez said. “They just outworked us . . . We were a little complacent on both ends of the floor and that’s not the position we’re in at all. We need to be out there fighting, grinding every possession just to give ourselves a shot . . . [We need to] realize that these guys in the locker room, these 15 guys, we’re all we got. We need to be out there, have each other’s backs, play for each other and play together.”
The Pacers (8-9) took control in the final four minutes of the first quarter, erasing an early Nets surge. Ellis’ three-pointer with 3:40 left put the Pacers up 22-20 as part of an 8-0 run. Randy Foye’s trey quashed the drought and put the Nets up by one, but the Pacers already had begun to feast on the Nets’ weaknesses. They scored the next eight to take the lead for good.
Ferrell scored five straight points midway through the second quarter to draw the Nets to within four, but they got no closer.
The Nets have lost the six games by an average of 19.7 points. Ferrell, who looked energized in his return to his hometown, said the thing that keeps them from getting too downtrodden is the belief that they can learn from their mistakes. “You’ve got to get back to the film,” he said. “You’ve got to see what things work well and continue to do those and try to strengthen those weaknesses.”
As the losses mount, though, it simply seems as if the Nets might not have the personnel to fix those problems and remain competitive. But that’s not something this team can afford to think this early in the season.
“We know that we’re better than this and we’ve been working on improving ourselves,” Lopez said. “We’re still confident.”
It all sounds good, but it’s getting harder to believe.