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Nets lose in OT to Pelicans after squandering 22-point lead

Paul Pierce (34) drives against New Orleans Pelicans

Paul Pierce (34) drives against New Orleans Pelicans guard Anthony Morrow, left, and guard Brian Roberts (22) during the first half of a game in New Orleans on Monday, March 24, 2014. Credit: AP / Jonathan Bachman

NEW ORLEANS -- With his index finger pointed at Alexis Ajinca, Paul Pierce started power-walking to midcourt in the third quarter, very displeased with the elbow Ajinca had just given him to the head.

The Nets had been pushing New Orleans around. They were cruising, doing just about anything they wanted, embarrassing the Pelicans on the way to taking a 22-point lead early in the third quarter. New Orleans apparently got tired of being bullied, though, and started showing a little fight in erasing the huge deficit.

Pierce jawed at Ajinca, drawing a technical foul. "He threw elbows at my face for like three consecutive trips,'' Pierce said. "I said something to him. I don't think it warranted a technical, but that's how the ref saw it.''

But it turns out it wasn't Ajinca who delivered the virtual knockout blow. Anthony Morrow's two three-point haymakers led to a technical knockout in overtime, sending the Nets to a 109-104 loss Monday night that ended their winning streak at four.

After one of their most satisfying wins of the season Sunday in Dallas, the Nets (37-32) squandered an opportunity to gain more ground on the Raptors and Bulls in the race for playoff positioning. They dropped two games behind both, bringing down a team that still was on an emotional high when it touched down in the Crescent City.

"It's definitely a very disappointing loss,'' said Joe Johnson, who had 13 of his 15 points in the second half but was scoreless in overtime. "For whatever reason, we gave the lead up a couple of times. So it's very unlike us, especially coming off a pretty good game. This here would've really validated it, but we came up short.''

Notably from beyond the arc. The Nets hoisted a franchise-record 40 three-pointers but made only 10.

Tyreke Evans had 33 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists and Anthony Davis created havoc inside with 24 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks for the Pelicans (30-40). And the Nets, who lost Marcus Thornton to a bruised lower back late in the first half, didn't make enough of a concerted effort to get into the paint.

Deron Williams, who had 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists, was incredulous that the Nets bombed away from the perimeter 40 times.

"Tonight?'' he said when told of the Nets' number of shots from three-point land. "What was our percentage?''

Told it was 25 percent, Williams said: "Yeah, that's not very good. I guess we were settling.''

The Nets really lost this one in that rough third quarter. New Orleans outscored them 31-18, all but negating the Nets' 58-42 halftime lead.

"It's disappointing, very disappointing,'' said Pierce, who led the Nets with 24 points. "We let our guard down in the third. No excuse. We went up. That's when you've got a chance to really put a team away.

"We stopped defending, we stopped doing a lot of the things that got us the lead. I think we settled a lot for jumpers instead of getting the ball to the paint, allowed them to get back in the game. Once they got their confidence, it's a ballgame.''

One that left the Nets lamenting their squandered chances.

Said Williams: "Being up 22 points, then not being able to close this game out a lot earlier and letting them come back is just disappointing.''

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