Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) works the ball against the...

Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) works the ball against the defense of Indiana Pacers guard Buddy Hield during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. Credit: Doug McSchooler

INDIANAPOLIS — Jacque Vaughn has aptly called this ride a roller coaster.

He doesn’t just mean the big picture of this Nets season — though an early coaching change, a slow start and a heavy dose of controversy makes that true, too.

He means the day to day: the way the Nets can look unbeatable for some stretches, as if they’ve finally figured it out, and then hit a catastrophic dip that has their collective stomach bottoming out from underneath them.

They saw it this week when they lost to a badly undermanned 76ers team and then beat Toronto the next night after losing a double-digit lead.

And then there was Friday against the Pacers. If this is a roller coaster, then the Nets’ 128-117 loss at Gainbridge Fieldhouse felt as if someone forgot to put down the guardrail.

The Pacers (11-7) took off on a 24-4 run late in the third quarter and well into the fourth. The Nets (9-11) committed seven fourth-quarter turnovers and had a slew of costly fouls.

It prevented them from reaching .500 for the first time since the second game of the season. Now at the quarter-season mark, they showed both their promise — a riveting first half by Ben Simmons, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving — and their inability to capitalize on it.

“For me, the overall poise for the whole group, that was the most important thing that we lacked a little bit,” Vaughn said. “They started a run and we didn’t respond in the correct way. They were becoming more the aggressors and kind of shifted everything toward their favor.”

The Pacers outscored the Nets 40-23 in the fourth quarter as only Durant hit a field goal: He was 7-for-10 and the rest of the team went 0-for-2. The Pacers went 30-for-38 from the line overall and the Nets were 8-for-10.

A testy matchup turned testier in the fourth quarter when Nic Claxton was hit with a flagrant foul.

Durant had 36 points, nine rebounds and eight assists and Simmons and Irving added 20 points apiece. Buddy Hield (26 points) led six Pacers in double digits. Bennedict Mathurin scored 16 of his 20 points in the quarter.

“They just made timely plays and stopped our momentum getting to the free-throw line,” Durant said. “They made tough shots.”

The Nets were up 65-57 at the break behind an energetic effort that neutralized many of the problems the Pacers presented in the teams’ first two meetings: second-chance points (just two), rebounds (the Nets kept the slight edge at 20-19) and three-pointers (the Pacers were 4-for-16 in the first half). The Nets had 19 assists in the first 24 minutes.

The Pacers started their comeback in the third quarter, getting to within two.

“It’s pretty frustrating,” Simmons said. “You’ve gotta take that next step. It’s easy for us to lock in for that first half, three quarters, whatever it is. We’ve got to learn how to do that the whole game, from the first to the last guy.”

It was a microcosm of the season: The Nets struggled to get stops and the Pacers tied it at 96 on Mathurin’s three with 10:21 left. Mathurin’s uncontested three from the top of the key seconds later gave the Pacers their first lead since the first quarter.

The Pacers went up 108-98 on Hield’s three with 6:43 left before Durant scored five straight points. It wasn’t nearly enough as Hield stayed hot and Claxton had problems — first fouling Myles Turner and then, with the Pacers up by seven, committing a flagrant foul on Tyrese Haliburton, who hit both free throws.

“I think how you build poise over the course of a season is going through a lot of games where you’re tested,” Irving said. “We’ll be in better shape [soon] . . . Once we pay attention to those details and keep that poise Jacque was talking about — the details matter at the end of the game, but we’ve got to keep that mental sharpness throughout the whole game.”

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