INDIANAPOLIS — OK, this one was a real test.
The Indiana Pacers were the first true playoff team that the Nets have faced this season. Yes, the Nets had looked impressive in a close loss to Detroit and a close win over the Knicks, but neither of those teams have an All-Star guard like Victor Oladipo or a realistic hope of moving past the first round of the playoffs.
This time, after hanging around for three periods, the Nets were overpowered in the fourth. The result was a not-so-attractive 132-112 loss at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Oladipo had 25 points and seven rebounds for the Pacers, who put the game away with a 13-0 run in the final period. Former Knick Kyle O’Quinn scored 14 of his 16 points in the final quarter. Nine Pacers finished in double figures.
“We competed for a while and kind of shrunk,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “ They were a step faster than us tonight. No excuses. We played well two nights and that third night you have to come again and bring it again. That’s why this is a tough league.”
Poor perimeter defense and unsure ballhandling caused the Nets a number of problems. They turned the ball over 20 times and allowed the Pacers to shoot 66.7 percent (16-for-24) from three-point range.
“We have to clean up a lot of stuff on the defensive end, especially doing it consistently for four quarters,” said Joe Harris, who along with Caris LeVert led the Nets with 19 points. “We played well going into the fourth quarter but didn’t execute like we should.”
The Nets also had another poor stretch late in the second quarter when they let the Pacers go on a 14-2 run to end the half.
“Those runs are ones that we can’t afford to let happen,” Spencer Dinwiddie said. “They hit shots. I believe Oladipo hit a couple. Obviously, he’s a great player, but they were hitting shots, then we were also coming back down and not scoring. We made some turnovers, and some weren’t always forced.”
Atkinson said it was difficult to recover from what happened at the end of the half.
“I thought we lost our discipline defensively at the end of the second quarter, where it could have been a manageable game, and all of a sudden it’s 10 points,” Atkinson said. “You’re going into the locker room down 10 and that’s too much.”
In all three games this season, the Nets have been plagued by bad stretches in which they dug themselves a hole. Against the Pistons and the Knicks, the Nets were awful in the third quarter. Atkinson said his team needs to learn how to play consistent defense.
“I think that’s where you really get into holes in this league, and then you have to scratch and claw back,” he said. “We can’t give up those big quarters. We can’t get down 11, 13, 15 if we are going to rely on that and come back. We have to do a better job controlling runs.”
Notes & quotes: Atkinson said Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (personal issue) should be back for Wednesday’s game in Cleveland . . . O’Quinn had 19 minutes of playing time off the bench as Domantas Sabonis was out with a left ankle sprain.