SAN ANTONIO - Maybe they were trying to pay homage to the celebration that was about to go down miles away back in Times Square, the one where the flickering sphere slides down a pole as everyone counts out the last few precious seconds of the calendar year.
All the Nets needed was a few sparkling rocks on their uniform to complete the picture because they surely dropped the ball once again, turning in their second straight uninspiring performance against the Spurs on New Year's Eve. The good news: at least they scored more than five points in the third quarter, something they couldn't do in last year's pasting.
But even on a night when Andrei Kirilenko returned after missing the previous 25 games with back spasms, the Nets' futility was in full force once more. They fell into a cavernous 27-point hole and were no match for the savvy Spurs, suffering a 113-92 defeat at the AT&T Center.
"I don't know what it is, man," said Deron Williams, who was virtually nonexistent in this one. "I don't know what's going on. There's nothing bad in the locker room, it's not like we don't trust the coaching staff. For whatever reason, we just haven't synced. We haven't found a way to play well together for 48 minutes consistently."
Losers of six of their last seven, the Nets (10-21) are playing like a team that's checked out mentally, failing to consistently prove they can play a full game and hang with any of the league's elite. Their defense remains atrocious, an embarrassing component of the team's genetic makeup given they put so much emphasis on that side of the ball, and continuously explain how digging in on that side of the ball is the only way they're going to become a good team.
San Antonio (25-7), which was paced by Tony Parker's 18 points and six assists, racked up 98 points through the first three quarters, shooting 55.9 percent. It's almost like the Spurs were toying with the Nets, bombing away from the perimeter with glee and canning 8 of their first 13 attempts from beyond the arc.
"It's embarrassing man," Paul Pierce said. "You go out and you are down 30 at the end of the third quarter, you give up 98 points. It's embarrassing. I don't know if I've probably been a part of this many blowouts in one season already, but at some point, we've got to be able to have our pride and it has to be able to come from each individual and say, 'We've just had enough of this.' It's extremely embarrassing."
In continuing a disturbing trend, Williams was invisible, doing little to distinguish himself or pull the Nets out of a funk. He had just nine points and shot 4-for-11 to go with six assists and four rebounds.
About the only person who played well for the Nets was Mason Plumlee, whose alley-oop dunks and spirited play in the interior kept the Nets from being outplayed even more. Plumlee had 15 points and 11 rebounds, recording his first career double-double, and he's become one of the few bright spots in the Nets' nightmare. However, they still believe they can actually turn it around. Eventually, anyway.
"We have no choice," Williams said. "I don't think we are making any trades. I don't know, but this is the team we've got. We feel like we can win with it. We've just got to figure out how."