After digging a 21-point second-quarter hole against the Kings Wednesday night at Barclays Center, the Nets climbed all the way back within sight of what could have been a miracle victory. They trailed by two points with 11.1 seconds left but committed two straight turnovers with the game on the line to lose a 104-99 decision.
It was their fourth straight loss, and Nets coach Kenny Atkinson admitted it left him “perplexed.”
Speaking of his team’s poor first-half showing, Atkinson said, “We can’t get in a hole like that. I’m disappointed in our defensive mentality in the first half. Obviously, the second half shows we can do it, but we dug too deep a hole. Even when we brought the second unit in, we didn’t get stops. We’ve got to get our rhythm back. We’ve lost it.”
Still trailing by 15 early in the fourth quarter, the Nets’ second unit fashioned a 14-2 run, including six points from Caris LeVert and five from Joe Harris, whose three at the 8;01 mark cut the Kings’ lead to 92-89. When Harris converted a layup at 5:04, the Nets’ deficit was down to 97-95. The Kings extended it to five, but a three-point play by Spencer Dinwiddie at 1:10 cut it to 101-99.
The Nets had a golden opportunity to lead or tie but Dinwiddie missed a three and DeMarre Carroll missed a putback before a turnover by Quincy Acy with 11.1 seconds to go. They immediately fouled Bogdan Bogdanovic at 10.7, and he missed the first before making the second for a three-point lead. Dinwiddie missed a potential tying three with 4.6 seconds to go, but the Nets retained possession. That chance went awry when the inbounds pass from Joe Harris went out of bounds, leading to two clinching foul shots by George Hill.
“Our execution wasn’t great,” Atkinson said. “I’ll throw myself in that bucket. I do think some tough shots were taken. Spencer was trying to draw a foul on one. Can we move the ball and take better shots?”
Dinwiddie topped the Nets (11-19) with 16 points, and they got 15 from Carroll and 14 apiece from Harris and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. But they shot only 38.8 percent and were outrebounded 48-39. Hill led the Kings (11-20) with 22 points, Zach Randolph added 21 and Willie Cauley-Stein had 13 points and nine rebounds.
In the first quarter, the Kings led by as many as 17 points when they shot 76.2 percent (16-for-21) and took a 36-20 lead. The second quarter was more of the same as the Kings pushed their lead as high as 21 points before settling for a 64-48 halftime lead. By that time, Cauley-Stein and Randolph had combined for 23 points and 10-for-11 shooting.
Carroll said Atkinson asked him to talk to the team at halftime. “Their bigs did whatever they wanted to do, especially [Randolph],” Carroll said. “He was catching it where he wanted it. We’ve got to be a scrappier team. [The Kings] were on a back-to-back, they were in our house, and they were up 20. We have to come out more physical.”